HK$7 million haul of illicit cigarettes is second largest seized in Hong Kong this year
Stash of 2.6 million cigarettes is found by customs after arriving from Guangzhou hidden in shipping container
Hong Kong’s second biggest haul this year of contraband cigarettes has been seized by customs officers after the HK$7 million stash arrived from Guangzhou hidden in a shipping container.
Assistant superintendent Chan Kai-ho, who heads the city’s customs division investigating illicit cigarettes, said the consignment was intended for local consumption to meet demand during the Christmas and New Year holiday season.
The six-metre container was unloaded on Wednesday afternoon from a cargo vessel that had arrived from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou and berthed at the River Trade Terminal in Tuen Mun. The contents were listed on import documents as kitchen utensils.
The weight of the container, which was packed with more than 300 boxes, raised suspicion and so it was selected for inspection, according to the assistant superintendent.
“Officers became suspicious when they noted in the manifest that the consignment was hundreds of kilograms lighter than the weight of similar cargo,” Chan said.
“When it was opened for inspection, about 270 boxes of illicit cigarettes were found behind more than 60 boxes of kitchen utensils.”
He said the haul had an estimated street value of HK$7 million with a duty potential of HK$5 million.
Chan said markings found on the boxes of the untaxed cigarettes were probably used to indicate deliveries to traffickers in different districts of the city.
He said no one had been arrested and investigations were continuing.
The biggest seizure of the year was made in July, when HK$8.2 million of untaxed cigarettes were found hidden in four shipping containers from Malaysia.
Wednesday’s seizure was made amid an increasing number of high-profile smuggling cases in the city this year.
According to the Customs and Excise Department, the number of cases involving seizure of 500,000 or more cigarettes stands at 21 so far this year, compared to 15 in the whole of last year.
Chan said officers would step up inspections at various control points to stub out the supply of contraband cigarettes, and enhance enforcement action to deal with illegal storage and sale across the city.
Under Hong Kong’s Import and Export Ordinance, importing or exporting unmanifested goods carries a maximum penalty of seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$2 million fine.
Members of the public can report any suspected activity involving illicit cigarettes to the 24-hour customs hotline on +852 2545 6182.