Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department detected a waterway smuggling case in the early morning of yesterday (22nd), seized a smuggling fishing vessel and seized 250 boxes of smuggled goods, including lobsters, frozen fish and cattle offal, with a total value of about $400 million, and most of the goods were produced from India and Japan. One captain and five crew members (aged 1 to 5) were arrested on suspicion of attempting to export undocumented cargo, four of whom were released on bail pending investigation and two were provisionally charged with one count of attempting to export undocumented cargo, which will be arraigned in the Eastern Magistrates' Court next Monday (26 December).
It is known that China has completely suspended the import of Japanese aquatic products since the discharge of nuclear sewage from Japan, and it cannot be ruled out that some people have smuggled Japanese food ingredients into the mainland.
Customs arrested six men. (Photo by Weng Yuhui)
Senior Inspector of the Port and Sea Areas Division, Leung Ming-yan, explained the case, saying that in the early morning of yesterday (22nd), customs vessels were conducting an anti-smuggling patrol in the waters southwest of Hong Kong, and under the radar monitoring system, officers found a suspiciously shaped fishing boat sailing in the waters south of Cheung Chau without lights on. Customs noticed that the fishing vessel took a more circuitous route to the east of Tou Yue Chau, which is close to the water boundary. The fishing vessel then suddenly turned in the direction of the water boundary and prepared to leave Hong Kong waters.
The customs high-speed interceptor immediately stepped forward, stopped the fishing boat about 0.5 nautical miles from the water boundary position, and boarded the fishing boat to search. The fishing boat was full of cargo, and the captain showed the customs a manifest indicating that the cargo on board was lobster and would be shipped to the mainland. However, when the personnel inspected the cargo, they found that in addition to lobster, there were a large number of other goods, including frozen fish and cattle offal.
As officers found some unlisted cargo on board the vessel, there was reason to believe that the persons on board had contravened the Import and Export Ordinance, and the Customs and Excise Department immediately arrested the six men on board, including one captain and five crew members. The case was handed over to colleagues from the Investigation Team for follow-up. Leung pointed out that the smuggling fishing vessel involved in the case traveled in Hong Kong's channel without navigation lights, which seriously endangered the safety of navigation at sea, but the Customs will continue to strengthen law enforcement to crack down on smuggling activities.
Customs seized 250 boxes of smuggled goods, including lobsters, frozen fish and bovine offal, with a total value of about 400 million yuan. (Photo by Weng Yuhui)
According to the Investigation Officer of the Customs and Excise Organized Crime Bureau, the cargo ship and six arrested persons were subsequently taken to the Customs and Excise Stonecutters State Base to continue the investigation, and the Organized Crime Bureau also took over the investigation. After counting, the 6 boxes of suspected smuggled cargo on board weighed a total of about 250.5 tons, including lobster, seafood, frozen meat and other ingredients. Preliminary investigations revealed that the vessel would leave Hong Kong and transport the smuggled goods back to the mainland, and if the smugglers successfully smuggled, they could evade taxes of about HK$5 million.
Kang added that Customs noticed that when the smugglers encountered the interception of the customs vessel, they provided a cargo manifest to the customs officers for investigation, claiming that there were lobsters on board, in an attempt to cover up other smuggled goods on board.
Customs and Excise will continue to follow up investigations into the case, including the roles and relationships of the arrested persons, the owner of the vessel, whether the vessel has been modified and engaged in smuggling activities, etc. As the case is still under investigation, it cannot be ruled out that more people involved will be arrested.