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GovHK press release: Customs seizes 3.3 million sticks of illicit cigarettes in operation against smuggling and retailing activities

Press release from the Hong Kong government:

Hong Kong Customs mounted a one-week special operation to combat cross-boundary smuggling of illicit cigarettes and distribution of cigarettes throughout the territory. In the operation, a cross-boundary vehicle used for conveying illicit cigarettes was seized and six illicit cigarette storage points were smashed. About 3.3 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. The total market value was about $8.1 million with a duty potential of about $5.6 million. Three men and three women aged between 41 and 58 were arrested.

Illicit cigarettes seized in a cross-boundary vehicle. (

The department is committed to taking stringent enforcement against illicit cigarette activities for protection of Government revenue. This operation focused on the source of illicit cigarettes and the distribution activities. After a series of anti-illicit-cigarette activities at the retail level last month, the Customs anticipated that the syndicate would soon smuggle illicit cigarettes into Hong Kong to replenish the supply. Enforcement actions against incoming vehicles at land control points were stepped up. With comprehensive intelligence analysis and operational planning, Customs officers at Lok Ma Chau Control Point yesterday (October 12) intercepted an incoming cross-boundary vehicle declared to contain 233 boxes of nylon bags and electronic products. After X-ray examination and thorough inspection by Customs officers, about 2.7 million sticks of illicit cigarettes in 193 carton boxes were found mixing with other goods and concealed at the innermost part where the goods were placed.

Following the crack down on 18 illicit cigarette storage points last month, the Customs found that, on the distribution level, illicit cigarette syndicates continued to deliver illicit cigarettes quickly from one place to another and avoided storing large amount of cigarettes in the designated points to minimise the loss if arrested. In this operation, six more illicit cigarette storage points were smashed, including four mini-storage units rented by the distributors and two residential premises with a total seizure of 600,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes. The Customs believed that the concerned illicit cigarette syndicate was smashed.

Illicit cigarettes stored in a mini-storage unit. (

In the first nine months this year, the Customs detected 20 significant smuggling cases with more than 500,000 sticks of illicit cigarettes in each case. During the period, a total of 32 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized, higher than the corresponding figures in 2012 (17 significant cases and 27 million sticks of illicit cigarettes). Overall, a total of 65 million sticks of illicit cigarettes for local market were seized, representing an increase of more than 30% when compared to the same period last year (49 million sticks of illicit cigarettes).

The Deputy Head of the Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Ms Lai Sau-ieng, said at a press conference today (October 13), “The operation showed the effectiveness of our enforcement strategy. The Customs will continue to spare no effort to undertake stringent enforcement against illicit cigarettes activities on all fronts for protection of Government revenue.”

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling the Customs’ 24-hour hotline 2545 6182.

13 Oct 2013

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