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800,000 contraband cigarettes worth HK$2.2 million found in fake air compressors

A HK$2.2 million consignment of contraband cigarettes from the mainland has been found hidden in fake air compressors after customs officers intercepted a cross-border lorry at Man Kam To control point, a senior Customs official said on Thursday.

The 49 bogus items looked like the genuine machines and each had power switch buttons and a pressure-reading meter on the casing, according to Superintendent Cecilia Yeung Kai-fei of Customs’ revenue and general investigation bureau.

However, she said: “The buttons were manufactured in a slipshod way. The pressure-reading meter was just glued on the metal casing and its indicator could not move.”

She added: “Inside the shell, no electrical parts were found, but it was filled with packets of cigarettes.”

The discovery was made on Tuesday when customs officers intercepted a Hong Kong-bound lorry for inspection at Man Kam To control point.

The 49 fake machines were hidden among 148 boxes of assorted cargo on board the lorry, according to the Customs and Excise Department.

Each fake, about 60cm tall, was filled with about 80 packets of contraband cigarettes.

Yeung said about 800,000 illicit cigarettes were sized in the operation and the haul had an estimated street value of HK$2.2 million with a duty potential of HK$1.5 million.

“We believe the consignment was for local consumption,” she said.

Officers arrested the Hong Kong driver, 39, and impounded his vehicle.

This afternoon, the man was still being held for questioning and had not been charged.

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, the maximum penalty for smuggling is seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$2 million fine.

Similar concealment methods were uncovered about 12 months ago when customs officers seized HK$2.7 million worth of contraband cigarettes hidden in fake air compressors and arrested two men in Tsing Yi.

Yeung said smugglers used different concealment methods and smuggling routes to evade detection. “We will enhance inspection at various control points to tackle such illegal activities,” she said.

Last year, customs officers confiscated 32.2 million illicit cigarettes in 19 significant smuggling cases. In 2013, there were 25 cases and 39.3 million contraband cigarettes seized. Each operation involved more than 500,000 cigarettes.

Source URL (modified on Mar 5th 2015, 5:17pm):

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