Hong Kong marine police have arrested more than 20 people, seized contraband worth HK$23.7 million (US$3 million) and impounded several powerful speedboats and vehicles in a three-week crackdown on cross-border sea smuggling. Twelve speedboats – each fitted with two or three outboard engines – were found in smuggling black spots such as Tung Chung on Lantau and Crooked Island, according to a law enforcement source. “Some of them are brand new. We believe they belonged to local triad gangs and were intended to be used for smuggling,” the source on Tuesday said. Acting Chief Inspector Chan Ling of the marine police regional crime unit said the speedboats were not equipped with navigation lights, firefighting facilities and life jackets. “Allowing these boats to sail in Hong Kong waters will endanger the safety of others at sea,” he said. During the three-week operation, officers arrested 24 people comprising 17 local residents and seven mainland Chinese men. They were detained for various offences such as exporting unmanifested cargo and endangering the safety of others at sea. Police said two of the mainland men were arrested after they were pulled out of waters off Tung Lung Chau on September 20. Hong Kong makes biggest sea smuggling bust of year with HK$160 million haul The pair were among three mainland men who arrived in a powerful speedboat from across the border to pick up smuggled goods. They were forced to jump into the sea when the boat caught fire off Waglan Island. Two were rescued by marine police off Tung Lung Chau, east of Hong Kong, at about 9am. The body of the third man was later found nearby. Police said the speedboat fitted with six outboard engines sank off Waglan Island after the blaze. Chief Inspector Chan Sze-man of the marine police said frozen meat such as Wagyu beef was among the HK$23.7 million worth of contraband products seized in the operation. She said other items included HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines, fry and black market cigarettes. Chan added the city’s marine police and Guangdong Public Security Bureau also carried out high-profile patrols along the coastal area in mainland and Hong Kong waters during the three-week crackdown. In Hong Kong, exporting unmanifested cargo is punishable by up to seven years in jail and a HK$2 million fine. Endangering the safety of others at sea carries a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a HK$200,000 fine. Police said the operation was ongoing and further arrests were possible.