Hong Kong customs officers confiscated HKD190 million ($24.25 million) worth of black market cigarettes in the second-largest smuggling bust in two decades, reports the South China Morning Post.
Hidden in seven cargo containers, the shipment of 69 million cigarettes was destined for Britain and Japan, according to Leung Chun-man, acting assistant superintendent of the customs’ revenue crimes investigation bureau.
One of the containers was packed with L&B and Benson & Hedges cigarettes with U.K. health warnings while another container was filled with Japan Tobacco’s Seven Stars brand cigarettes.
“It is the second-biggest seizure of illegal tobacco products discovered since our records began in 2002,” Leung said. The largest seizure took place in July 2022, when authorities confiscated HKD222 million worth of contraband.
If the contraband had been legally imported, Leung said, it would have generated HKD130 million in tax revenue.
Figures from the Customs and Excise Department show the agency confiscated 732 million black market cigarettes worth HKD1.23 billion last year—the biggest annual haul since records began two decades ago.
As Hong Kong eased its coronavirus restrictions last month, illegal tobacco dealers increased their activities.
In Hong Kong, a pack of 20 cigarettes sells for HKD50 to HKD60 whereas illegal ones can go for HKD15.