HK authorities seize HK$46 million worth of illicit cigarettes, arrest five in New Territories raid

22-Jan-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Authorities confiscated some HK$46 million (US$5.9 million) worth of black-market cigarettes and arrested five men at a corrugated metal shed in northern Hong Kong on Tuesday evening the second major bust involving contraband tobacco in the area in just four days.

Assistant Superintendent Rachel Fong Kwun-ting, of the Customs and Excise Department’s revenue crime investigation bureau, said on Wednesday that she believed the illicit cigarettes were intended to meet demand in the city during the coming Lunar New Year holiday.

Tuesday’s haul was the second such bust in the Ping Che area of Ta Kwu Ling in four days. Last Friday, customs officers found HK$26 million worth of illicit cigarettes in another shed used as a storage centre, and arrested a 24-year-old man.

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Fong said authorities were investigating whether the two cases were linked, and if the same syndicate was behind both storage facilities.

The latest seizure was made in a joint operation mounted by police and customs officers on Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Alex Cheung Man-chuen, of the New Territories North crime unit, said the shed where the contraband was stored had been uncovered by an investigation into a triad gang that hawked illicit cigarettes on social media.

Officers laid in wait outside the shed off Ping Yuen Road, and leapt into action when a car drove out around 7.15pm.

Police intercepted the vehicle and arrested two Hong Kong men inside, aged 29 and 37. Both men are suspected triad members.

“Inside the shed, there were 1,631 cartons of cigarettes, and the haul had an estimated street value of HK$46 million,” Cheung said.

Officers arrested another three mainland men who were suspected of having entered the city from the mainland illegally about two months ago.

Fong said they were still investigating the source of the seized cigarettes.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the five suspects were still being held for questioning and had not been charged.

In Hong Kong, dealing with, possessing, selling or buying illicit cigarettes carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a HK$1 million fine under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance.

Tuesday’s bust brings the total value of contraband cigarettes seized in the first 19 days of 2021 to HK$76 million.

Hong Kong customs confiscated more than HK$560 million worth of illegal cigarettes in 2020, up 270 per cent from the HK$151 million in seizures made in 2019.


Category: Hong Kong

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