Customs officers seize HK$4.8 million of illegal cigarettes from mainland China found being smuggled into HK inside mobile toilets

26-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong customs officers have found HK$4.8 million worth of illegal cigarettes hidden inside mobile toilets being brought into the city from mainland China.

Officials seized the contraband on Wednesday after it was found on a truck that had crossed the border.

It was the fourth time smugglers have been caught trying to bring illegal cigarettes into Hong Kong this year, and took the total street value of goods seized by authorities to HK$13 million.

The vehicle’s manifest said it was carrying nine mobile toilets when it arrived at the Lok Ma Chau control point from Shenzhen, according to the Customs & Excise Department.

But an X-ray showed a difference in density between the two mobile toilets near the container door and the seven at the back. This prompted officers to open all the cubicles, where they found 1.8 million cigarettes concealed in 203 carton boxes, which completely filled the seven mobile toilets.

Officers arrested a 54-year-old male driver, who had since been released on bail pending further investigation. The truck was impounded.

Brian Chan Kai-ho, divisional commander of the Revenue and general Investigation Bureau, said all the cigarettes confiscated so far this month had come from the mainland, and were for local distribution.

The operation came just two days after officers found 1.6 million cigarettes, with an estimated street value of HK$4.4 million, hidden among vegetables in a truck at the Man Kam To border crossing.

The contraband was found in 179 foam boxes mixed in with 321 boxes of vegetables. The haul would have cost the government HK$3.1 million in tax. A male driver, 61, was arrested and released on bail.

“As we expected before the [Lunar New Year] holiday, smugglers are filling their inventory. So that’s why we stepped up enforcement action,” Chan said.

About HK$54 million (US$6.9 million) worth of contraband cigarettes were seized in the first 11 months of 2018, up more than 50 per cent year-on-year.

During this period, customs officers discovered 244 illegal cigarette storage facilities and confiscated more than 20 million cigarettes which would have cost the government HK$38 million in taxes.

Chan put the sharp increase down to surging demand in the local market, but stressed that the situation was under control.

Anyone found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo is liable to a maximum fine of HK$2 million, and seven years in prison.


Category: Hong Kong

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