Hong Kong customs have seized 9,000 bottles of smuggled wines inside two ocean-going vessels headed to Shanghai in a massive raid that led to seizure of more than HK$200 million (US$25.6 million) worth of smuggled goods including wine, expensive food ingredients, electronic goods, vinyl records and medicine, according to Hong Kong government.
Judging by images released by Hong Kong government, the smuggled wines mainly consist of thousands of Australia’s popular brand Penfolds, some Champagne Moet and Japanese sake Dassai.
Other than wines, the smuggled goods include about 22 tons of expensive food ingredients such as dried shark fins, dried fish maws and dried sea cucumbers, over 140,000 electronic goods, about 70,000 pieces of vinyl records, 4,000 boxes of medicine and endangered species.
The total value is estimated at over HK$200 million, the second biggest sea smuggling case dismantled by the city’s authorities this year, as smugglers ramp up efforts to send tax-free expensive goods to mainland China as borders still largely remain closed due to the pandemic.
Earlier in October, Hong Kong Customs just seized 30,000 bottles of smuggled wines in its largest sea smuggling case. Majority of the wines consist of Australian Penfolds, which remains popular on the mainland despite 175.6% punitive tariffs slapped on its parent company Treasury Wine Estates.
Australian wine exports to Hong Kong surged after China officially imposed up to 218% punitive tariffs on its wines, but many industry insiders suspect that a sizable portion of the wines ended up on the mainland as merchants try to bypass the hefty levies.
According to the customs, the authorities acted on intelligence and intercepted two ocean-going vessels heading for Shanghai at Tsing Yi Container Terminal on December 11 and 12.
Five men aged between 38 and 54 suspected to be connected with the cases have been arrested and the case is still under investigation.
Smuggling is a serious offence. Under the Import and Export Ordinance, any person found guilty of importing or exporting unmanifested cargo is liable to a maximum fine of HK$2 million and imprisonment for seven years. Moreover, any person who imports or exports pharmaceutical products and medicines without a valid licence commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of HK$500,000 and imprisonment for two years.