• June 15, 2024

Hong Kong Crackdown Nets $72 Million in Illegal Smokes

 Hong Kong Crackdown Nets $72 Million in Illegal Smokes

Credit: Timothy S. Donahue

Credit: Timothy S. Donahue

Hong Kong customs officers seized untaxed cigarettes worth HK563 million ($72.1 million) during a nearly three-month illegal trade crackdown, coinciding with a tobacco tax increase in February.

Assistant Commissioner Barry Lai Chi-wing said officers clamped down on the post-pandemic trend of smuggling the contraband into the city in small portions from February 19 to May 14 in an operation code-named “Tempest.”

Part of the operation also took place after Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in this year’s budget that the tobacco tax would be raised by 80 HK cents per stick with immediate effect, according to media reports.

The increase raised the average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes by HK$16 to more than HK$90. A pack costs HK$19 to HK$38 on the black market.

During the operation, 4,347 people, aged 15 to 89, were arrested. Officers confiscated 139 million sticks of suspected illicit cigarettes, 105kg of cigars, and around 1,525kg of manufactured tobacco products, which had a market value of HK625 million. The tax take would have been about HK454 million.