The Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department has announced the seizure of 540 metric tons of smuggled frozen meats with an estimated market value of about HKD 50 million (approximately US $6.4 million) from four fishing boats heading to mainland China on November 28.
The contraband was largely high-value beef products sourced from various countries. This was the largest detection of smuggled meats both in terms of value and volume in the past decade.
Loaded onto four non-refrigerated fishing boats at a Hong Kong pier, the illegal cargoes were intercepted on the waters of southeast Hong Kong. Six men between the ages of 52 and 64 were apprehended during the operation, in which beef shanks, ribs and round cuts were seized. No pork was found aboard the vessels.
The government announcement did not reveal the specific origin of the contraband, but a spokesperson indicated that the products came from a number of countries including Europe and the United States.
Hong Kong Customs authorities have intercepted total of 976 metric tons of smuggled frozen meats this year, which is more than double of the total in the past ten years.
Smuggling is a serious offense in Hong Kong. Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo may be fined as much as $2 million and imprisoned for seven years.
Big Bust in Gongbei
Meanwhile, it was reported on December 6 that Gongbei customs officials in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, arrested three suspects and seized 847 tons of smuggled frozen food last month in the largest haul of its kind along the border with Macau. The contraband included chicken feet lacking certificates of quarantine or origin.
As of November 20, Gongbei customs officials have recorded 56 smuggling cases this year involving a total of 8,146 tons of frozen food.