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Crime in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s young smugglers told: get caught and your age won’t save you from decades in jail

Head of Rail and Ferry Command reveals that 92 youngsters have been arrested since the start of the year, a 46 per cent rise on same time period in 2017

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 7:49pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 10:35pm

Hong Kong’s young adults have been told age and a clean record will not save them from a lengthy jail sentence if they are caught smuggling drugs or other contraband into the city.

The warning came from Ida Ng Kit-ching, the head of the Rail and Ferry Command at Customs & Excise Department, as she revealed 92 young offenders had been arrested in the first five months of this year, a rise of 46 per cent on 2017.

Ng said the case of a 20-year-old, who was sentenced to 22½ years in prison for trafficking 5kg of ketamine, should prove a salutary lesson for others tempted to follow in his footsteps – especially as he was paid just HK$500 to do so.

Ng said smuggling syndicates preyed on teenagers and young adults to do their dirty work by offering them free overseas trips, entertainment, or cash to carry goods across the border. They convinced the drug mules authorities would go easy on them because of their young ages and clean records.

She added that the court jailed young offenders in more than 70 per cent of cases.

“Many of them [the smugglers] looked very relaxed when they were arrested, or when being questioned by our investigators,” Ng said. “They totally overlooked the seriousness of the offence involved.

“Some only realised they were in deep trouble when they saw their parents in tears during a home search.”

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Among the arrests this year, 11 suspects were found trafficking dangerous drugs, an offence that can carry a sentence of life imprisonment if convicted, compared to only four arrested for the same offence in the same period of 2017.

The youngest to be arrested was a 16-year-old female student visiting Hong Kong in March, who concealed 1.4kg of heroin valued at HK$1.05 million underneath her shoes.

She arrived at Hong Kong International Airport from Southeast Asia alongside a 19-year-old man.

Last month, a local 16-year-old boy was arrested carrying 970 grams of Ice valued at HK$520,000 as he entered the city through the Lok Ma Chau Control Point. The teen wrapped the narcotics with plastic and put it in a paper bag.

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Ng said young smugglers now did not even bother to conceal the drugs like they used to do.

“They now just wrap the drug in a plastic bag and store it in their backpack,” Ng said. “Some even just put the drug in their pockets and pass through the channel in a causal manner.

Overall, the number of cases involving smuggling by passengers through different local ports in the first five months surged by 53 per cent to 6,359. Officers seized HK$36 million in trafficked items, with around two-thirds of them were taxable.

According to sentencing guidelines, offenders trafficking as few as 10 grams of Ice or above can be jailed for up to 11 years, while 600 grams is enough for to earn the offender 20 years or more in jail.