HONG KONG: Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) mounted an operation codenamed “Season” during the Christmas and New Year holidays at the airport, seaport, land boundary and railway control points in a bid to combat smuggling and other illegal activities through passenger and cargo channels.
Starting on December 18, 2017 and concluding on January 7, 2018, Customs detected a total of 613 cases, arrested 95 persons and seized items with an estimated value of about $38 million in the three-week operation. On the anti-narcotics front, 59 dangerous drug cases were detected, resulting in the seizure of about 48 kilograms of suspected dangerous drugs with an estimated market value of over $5 million. Nine persons suspected of trafficking in dangerous drugs were arrested. Most of the seizures were synthetic drugs, including cathinone (commonly known as “bath salt”), methamphetamine (commonly known as “ice”) and ecstasy, which were seized mainly from inbound air parcels and express cargo.
Customs officers also detected 15 cases of suspected smuggling of endangered species items including rhino horns, agarwood, pangolin scales and controlled shark fins. Twelve persons were arrested and the estimated seizure value was about $4.3 million.
Infringing products with an estimated value of about $6.2 million were also seized. In one case, 7 800 suspected counterfeit hair straighteners and 3 700 pairs of suspected counterfeit sports shoes with a total estimated value of about $4.6 million were found in a container from Huangpu, Guangdong Province, destined for Venezuela via Hong Kong.
In the operation, Customs officers also seized more than three million sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes from two incoming trucks declared as carrying a water tank and plastercasts respectively. The estimated market value of the seizures was about $9 million with duty potential of over $6 million. The two drivers were arrested in suspected connection with the cases.
Meanwhile, 493 persons arriving at various control points intercepted were found failing to make a declaration to Customs officers for carrying tobacco and liquor exceeding exempted quantities, breaching the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance. Thirty-five were prosecuted and 458 others were fined.
In view of the cross-boundary flows of passengers and goods during festive seasons, the C&ED will continue to step up enforcement action against smuggling activities.