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Hong Kong customs seizes about 2.1m illicit cigarettes, 13 arrested

HONG KONG: Customs officials seized about 2.1 million illicit cigarettes and arrested 13 people in the latest raid on cross-border tobacco smugglers.The seizures, valued at about HK$5.6 million, followed a two-week operation targeting vehicles crossing the border from the mainland. Two cars were seized and five suspected tobacco storage points were smashed.

The tobacco involved would have attracted duties of HK$4.1 million, customs said.

Illicit cigarettes have grown in popularity in recent years as taxes have risen. One British study said as many as a third of cigarettes smoked in Hong Kong in 2012 were illegal, although the claim has been disputed by anti-smoking campaigners. The operation showed the effectiveness of our enforcement strategy, especially the escalated enforcement actions against smuggling activities at source,” a customs spokesman said.

As of last month, customs officers had impounded 31 million illicit cigarettes in 18 significant smuggling cases this year. Each operation involved more than 500,000 cigarettes.Customs operations have also targeted people who supply illicit cigarettes by telephone order. Some 234 people were arrested and cigarettes worth HK$7.45 million were seized in those operations in the first nine months of the year

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