- Department says suspicious ship was berthed near container terminal in Kwai Chung and appeared to be hiding among other vessels
- Officers discovered 22 million contraband cigarettes stored in cargo containers, alongside 40,000 more in ship’s engine room and other compartments
Hong Kong customs has arrested eight men and confiscated HK$82 million (US$10.4 million) worth of black market cigarettes during a raid on a cargo vessel, reports SCMP.
A suspicious ship
Officers on Saturday identified the suspicious ship berthed near a container terminal in Kwai Chung that appeared to be hiding among other vessels, the Customs and Excise Department on Sunday said.
Senior Inspector Lam Wai-kit of the department’s revenue crimes investigation bureau said the boat was intercepted and boarded as it approached the terminal, located along Container Port Road South.
Customs discovered 22 million contraband cigarettes stored in two 40-foot (12-metre) cargo containers, alongside 40,000 more in the ship’s engine room and cabin.
The department estimated that the haul had a total market value of HK$82 million and could have generated about HK$55 million in government tax revenue if the cigarettes had been imported legally.
The eight suspects, aged 25 to 60, from Myanmar and mainland China, included the ship’s captain. They were all arrested on suspicion of the importation of unmanifested cargo.
Lam said 70 per cent of the haul was intended for the Hong Kong market and the rest for export, since the brands were not well-known in the city.
Further arrests were possible as customs was still investigating the source of the cigarettes and their intended destination, he said.
The department has seized more than 430 million contraband cigarettes worth over HK$1.4 billion so far this year, with the potential to generate HK$1 billion in government revenue.