China: Hong Kong Customs Seize 5 Million Smuggled Cigarettes

Customs officers in Hong Kong have concluded a week-long operation arresting nine and seizing more than 5 million cigarettes.

A major smuggling ring is believed to be effectively dismantled by what was the largest bust of its kind in years.

Customs officials intercepted trucks carrying USD $1.55 million worth of cigarettes with a duty potential of USD $1.03 million packed along with electronic goods. Officers seized 5,000 counterfeit mobile phones and 400 tablet computers valuing an additional USD $670,000, according to Hong Kong newspaper The Standard.

"This is a very rare case of mixing illicit cigarettes and electronic products," said customs division commander Wan Hing-chuen. "We suspect that the syndicates combined their smuggling activities for the sake of convenience."

Smugglers intended to ship the phones and tablets into developing countries.

The maximum penalty for smuggling in Hong Kong is seven years imprisonment and a USD $260,000 fine. Possession of illicit cigarettes is punishable by a two-year sentence and USD $130,000.

Eighteen smuggling busts involving at least 500,000 cigarettes have been conducted in 2013, and 17 occurred in 2012.