HK$4.65 million worth of illegal cigarettes seized daily by Hong Kong Customs, with $1.03 billion in contraband uncovered this year

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Hong Kong customs officials seize an average of HK$4.65 million ($592,000) worth of cigarettes sold on the black market each day, bringing the total value of contraband discovered this year to HK$1.03 billion. Kong, according to the latest statistics.

The Customs and Excise Department revealed on Thursday that the 376 million confiscated illicit cigarettes, which could generate HK$716 million if imported legally, marked a 53% year-on-year increase, last year’s figures for the same period amounting to 245 million cigarettes worth HK. $675 million.

“The seizure of illicit cigarettes has increased this year because we have changed our strategy to fight the black market cigarette trade at the source,” said Inspector Chan Po-tin of the Tax Crimes Investigation Bureau. customs.

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It announced details of the latest anti-smuggling operation which resulted in the seizure of HK$115 million worth of illegal cigarettes from a barge and the arrest of six men last week.

The barge was being towed by a tugboat when it was intercepted by customs off Tsing Yi around 10 a.m. last Friday. Five shipping containers were found on board, and the six suspects from both vessels were arrested.

Acting Chief Inspector Wong Chi-yan of Ports Customs and Maritime Command said officers opened the containers for inspection after crew members failed to provide supporting documents for loading.

“During the inspection, we found different brands of untaxed cigarettes packed in the containers,” she said.

The six men, aged 36 to 69, were arrested on suspicion of importing undeclared goods – an offense punishable by up to seven years in prison and a fine of HK$2 million.

Wong said the tug and barge were on their way to Yau Ma Tei public cargo area at the time.

“When the barge was intercepted, an orange rain warning was in effect and there were large waves and strong currents with poor visibility,” she said.

“We believe that the smugglers took advantage of the bad weather to carry out their illegal activities to avoid the risk of being intercepted by law enforcement.”

Chan said customs officers are still investigating the source of the shipment and its final destination, adding that further arrests could be made.

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Due to the relaxation of pandemic rules and the resumption of normal logistics operations, the inspector said there is a possibility that smugglers will replenish stocks of illicit cigarettes to supply to customers in Hong Kong and overseas .

Customs seized 57 million black market cigarettes worth HK$160 million in Fanling, Yuen Long, Tuen Mun and Tsing Yi during a four-day operation between July 23-26 .

Chan said officers would continue to target the smuggling, stockpiling and trafficking of illicit cigarettes.

He also warned that trading in, possessing, selling or buying illicit cigarettes was punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of HK$1 million under of the Dutiable Goods Ordinance.

Customs officers seized 430 million contraband cigarettes worth HK$1.17 billion for all of last year – the highest volume of such seizures in the past two decades, and more than double the amount confiscated in 2020.

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