Authorities in Shenzhen seized over 4,000 bottles of fine wines including Lafite, Mouton and Penfolds 707 and other high-value products worth more than RMB 18 million (US$ 2.31 million), as smugglers scurried to ferry the goods from tax-free Hong Kong to the mainland amid months of border closure.
According to the General Administration of Customs in China, the seizure was made at Liantang port, the latest land port opened last August, linking Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
The contrabands were declared as 18.57 tons of imported rubber and plastic buttons, but an inspection found that the goods in the cargo are in fact high-end wines, various seafood and hair products estimated by the customs to worth RMB 18 million.
In total, 4174 bottles of Bordeaux first growths Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Penfolds 707, Champagne and whiskies were among the illegally smuggled wines found by the authorities.
A bottle of Penfolds 707 would sell around RMB 5,000 (USD 771) a bottle on the mainland, and judging by the photo released by the customs, there are at least 20 cases of the premium Australian wine.
Demand for Penfolds, arguably one of the most known imported wine brands in China, soared after the country slapped about 218% anti-dumping tariffs on Australian wines, which made the wine less available.
Australian wine imports in Hong Kong soared
Interestingly, while overall Australian wines to mainland China plunged, imports in Hong Kong soared.
From January to May this year, Australian wine imports in Hong Kong grew more than 340% year on year to HKD 1.04 billion (US$133.8 million), compared with the same period last year.
The increase reflects in part Hong Kong local market’s strong recovery but as some speculated, the significant jump over other country of origins also suggested that more producers are shipping wines to Hong Kong in the hope of ferrying the wines to the mainland.
Hong Kong has closed off borders with mainland China since the start of the pandemic last year, and travel between the two places have yet to be resumed without excessive quarantine.
Aside from the smuggled wines, customs also found over 8200 kg of fish maw, conpoy, sea cucumber, which are considered delicacy in southern Chinese cuisine in addition to some 400 shampoo and hair conditioners in the bust.