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Huge illicit trade in Hong Kong despite threat of jail sentences for offenders

| January 6, 2014

Hong Kong customs seized 38 million cigarettes between January and November last year, well up on the seizures made during 2012, according to a Hong Kong government information press note.

The figure given for 2012 was 27 million, but it was not clear whether this figure covered the January–November 2012 period or the full year to the end of December.

The final figure for 2013 will certainly be a lot higher than 38 million because customs initiated a major crackdown on smuggling during the final weeks of December.

However, the seizures are just the tip of the iceberg, according to according to a story in the South China Morning Post.

Luisa Tam Han-may, executive director of United Against Illicit Tobacco, said that while customers were talking about a 41 percent increase in seizures, this was the figure only for successful seizures. It wasn’t an indication of how big the whole trade was.

One in every three cigarettes smoked in Hong Kong in 2012 was illicit—the second highest proportion of 11 Asian countries—Tam said, citing a British study.

That proportion suggests sales of 1.8 billion illicit cigarettes annually, an astonishingly high figure given that anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes is liable to the maximum penalty of a $1 million fine and imprisonment for two years.

Category: Breaking News

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