Crackdown by Hong Kong customs nets illegal cigarettes worth HK$57 million
Customs officers made this year’s largest seizure of contraband in the city on Tuesday, with an estimated value of HK$7.3 million
Contraband cigarettes worth more than HK$57 million have been confiscated by Hong Kong Customs in 12 cases of tobacco smuggling from the mainland so far this year, a customs official said on Wednesday.
Details were revealed by assistant superintendent Lau Yuk-lung ,who heads the Customs division investigating illicit cigarettes, after customs officers made this year’s largest seizure of contraband in the city on Tuesday.
The HK$7.3 million haul was discovered when officers intercepted a Hong Kong-bound container truck at Man Kam To Immigration Control Point. The import document claimed it carried more than 800 cartons of assorted goods such as metalware and clothes.
“When the container was opened for inspection, illicit cigarettes were found stashed in 160 cartons,” the assistant superintendent said.
He said initial investigations showed the consignment was intended for local consumption.
The Hong Kong driver, 28, was arrested and the truck was impounded. The driver was released on bail pending further investigations.
Lau believed the seized cigarettes were intended to supplement the illegal market after customs officers seized HK$3.8 million worth of illegal cigarettes from another cross-border truck at Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint on July 20.
“We are still investigating whether there is the same cigarette-smuggling syndicate behind the two cases,” he said.
The two cases were among 12 cross-border tobacco smuggling incidents uncovered by the Customs and Excise Department so far this year. Eleven people were nabbed in connection with the 12 cases.
Lau stressed that there was no evidence to indicate that there was an increasing trend of illegal trade of untaxed cigarettes in Hong Kong. “The situation is under control,” he added.
Meanwhile, customs officers mounted a city-wide operation against illegal cigarettes over the past two weeks.
During the operation, 47 suspected tobacco traffickers and buyers, aged from 14 to 82, had been rounded up with the seizure of HK$150,000 worth of contraband cigarettes recovered. Officers also uncovered eight warehouses used to store 450,000 illicit cigarettes worth HK$1.2 million across the city, and arrested seven people.
Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, the maximum penalty for selling, buying or dealing with illicit cigarettes is a two years’ imprisonment and a HK$1 million fine.
Lau said they would continue to carry out stringent enforcement against illegal cigarette smugglers.
Members of the pubic are urged to call Customs’s 24-hour hotline on 2545 6182 to report suspected illicit cigarette activities.