Hong Kong speedboat smuggling bust nets luxury goods trove

HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong customs announced their biggest ever bust of a speedboat gang smuggling luxury goods into the mainland yesterday, unveiling a haul that included watches, handbags and shoes, endangered animal parts and cosmetics.

The massive seizure – valued at HKD120 million (USD15.4 million) – is a window into the thriving smuggling networks that operate along the border between Hong Kong and China.

Simple economics makes the trade hugely lucrative.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong has no sales tax, making it one of the cheapest places in the world to buy luxury goods.

But over in China, punitive taxes often mean that luxury items cost up to double the price, providing a powerful smuggling incentive.

A vast cornucopia of items get trafficked over from Hong Kong.

Two bizarre recent operations that were disrupted included frozen meat and pets, some of whom were thrown overboard by smugglers and drowned when police gave chase.

Yesterday, the Customs and Excise Department unveiled the city’s largest bust to date of a cross-border smuggling operation that used speedboats.

Head of Customs’ Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau Mark Woo said officers had been monitoring a smuggling gang for weeks before they moved on a speedboat as it was being filled up last Wednesday.