Hong Kong Customs believes they have struck a heavy blow against a cross-border tobacco-smuggling syndicate following the seizure of HK$12 million worth of untaxed cigarettes in two operations this month. Investigations revealed the gang mixed boxes of illicit cigarettes with other products and used goods vehicles to smuggle the contraband from Shenzhen to Hong Kong via various border crossings, according to a senior customs official. “Upon arrival in Hong Kong, the cigarettes would have been conveyed to tobacco traffickers who sell to buyers through telephone orders,” Wan Hing-chuen, deputy head of Customs’ revenue and general investigation bureau, said today. READ MORE: Hong Kong Customs to work with Guangdong counterparts to crack down on cigarette smuggling He said intelligence indicated the gang was one of the major cigarette-smuggling syndicates in the city. This was revealed today after customs officers confiscated 1.9 million cigarettes on board a truck at the Man Kam To border crossing yesterday. The consignment was found concealed inside 76 sofas when officers intercepted the truck entering the city from Shenzhen via the control point. Wan said the one-metre-long sofas, which were wrapped with plastic sheets, were hidden behind more than 900 boxes of plastic and electronic goods in the innermost part of a shipping container loaded at the back of the truck. “After suspicious images were found in an X-ray examination, officers cut open the sofas and discovered the cigarettes,” he said. “About 120 to 130 cigarette cartons [each with 10 packets of 20 cigarettes] were hidden in the hollow centre of each sofa,” the superintendent said. He said the contraband worth HK$5.1 million was for local consumption and the haul would have amounted to evasion of HK$3.6 million in taxes if it went undetected. Officers arrested the truck driver, a Hong Kong man, 47, and impounded the truck. In the afternoon, he was still being held for questioning and had not been charged. The seizure came a fortnight after customs officers at Lok Ma Chau control point arrested a lorry driver, 40, after discovering HK$7 million worth of illicit cigarettes on board his vehicle on September 1. Wan said intelligence indicated the same syndicate was behind the smuggling of the two consignments. “Supply of the illicit cigarettes had dwindled after the first operation [made on September 1],” he said. “Intelligence showed the syndicate tried to smuggle the second consignment into the city to meet the demand.” He said investigations were still continuing. According to the Customs and Excise Department, smuggling syndicates used different concealment methods in an attempt to evade detection. “Previously, we have found fake water heaters, bogus ovens and mattresses that were used to hide contraband cigarettes,” Wan said. He said Customs would continue stringent enforcement actions against the trade of illegal cigarettes.