Chinese Customs authorities in Gongbei, Guangdong have seized RMB 35 million (US$5.04 million) worth of smuggled Penfolds that were funnelled from tax-free Macau to mainland China, as demand for the popular Australian wine brand continues to remain high despite crushing tariffs.
The authorities did not specify the exact wines from Penfolds that have been intercepted but photos released by Gongbei authorities showed bottles of Penfolds Bin 389, RWT Bin 789 and Bin 407, which sells for RMB 1119 (US$161), RMB 1855 (US$267) and RMB 1448 (US$214) respectively on the brand’s Tmall flagship store.
Penfolds is arguably the most known imported wine in China. Before China officially imposed up to 218% anti-dumping tariffs on Australian wines last March, its parent company Treasury Wine Estates was the biggest Australian wine exporter to China.
According to Gongbei customs, authorities first cracked down on the syndicate on May 25 when they were caught red handed trading 598 bottles of smuggled Penfolds to buyers at a shopping mall garage in Gongbei.
Further investigation reveals that the suspects have been illegally shipping tax-free Penfolds from Macau to the mainland since March, and would use a designated shopping mall as the meeting point with buyers before the wines were sold nationwide.
In a surprise turn of events, one of the main suspects surnamed Yao who eluded capture in the May operation took up smuggling again when quarantine-free travel between Macau and Zhuhai resumed. According to the police, Yao was arrested on August 16 with five other suspects in a police raid, which led to discovery of 870 more bottles of smuggled Penfolds.
According to Gongbei authorities, in this case not just the smugglers are arrested. Buyers of the illegally smuggled wines were also nabbed.
A wine company in Dongguan, Guangdong that was found to have purchased and distributed the illegally obtained wines was also raided by police on August 26. According to police, the wine company has sold nearly 20,000 bottles of smuggled wines since 2022.