Customs officers at Kaohsiung Port yesterday said they have seized 2,000 boxes of cigarettes holding 1 million cartons of cigarettes inside two shipping containers from China, while Penghu County authorities said they last month confiscated more than 11,000 boxes of contraband Chinese cigarettes aboard a Panama-registered cargo ship operated by a Chinese crew.
Customs Administration officials said both were likely smuggling operations run by criminal elements from several countries, as the seized cigarettes were undeclared and untaxed, and the ships originated from Chinese ports.
The cigarettes seized in Penghu had an estimated value of NT$500 million (US$17.36 million), while those in Kaohsiung were valued at NT$70 million, the agency said in a statement.
Kaohsiung customs officers became suspicious of the two 40-foot containers waiting for transshipment at the port’s No. 70 pier after they were unloaded from a cargo vessel originating from China’s Guangdong Province. The containers were listed as being destined for the Philippines’ Subic Bay Port.
Shipping documents for the containers declared their contents as “stretch film,” but customs officers discovered they were loaded with boxes of leading cigarette brands from the Philippines, including Fortune, Two Moon and Mighty, the statement said.
Customs officers seized the boxes due to falsified information on the bill of lading and other shipping documents, and for not paying taxes.
They said they would also investigate possible contraventions of the Customs Anti-smuggling Act (海關緝私條例) and the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act (菸酒管理法).
In Penghu on Sunday, prosecutors concluded a preliminary investigation into the seizure of contraband cigarettes on Oct. 30 at Suogang Harbor.
Charges of smuggling and other offenses were laid against the 13 Chinese crew members of the cargo ship, along with contraventions of the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act, and the laws governing relations between peoples of Taiwan and China, the prosecutors said in a statement.
The investigation found that the ship left Ningde Port in China’s Fujian Province early last month.
It first headed to Cai Lan Port in Vietnam, where it allegedly picked up the illicit cargo of 11,158 cardboard boxes of contraband Chinese cigarettes, including popular brands such as Panda, Baisha and Zhonghua, along with some high-priced luxury brands that cost up to 100 yuan (US$15.20) a pack in China, prosecutors said.
The modus operandi of Chinese smugglers has been to have cargo ships sail along the Chinese side of the Taiwan Strait and divide the illicit cargo among civilian Chinese fishing boats, which then either try to sneak into small Taiwanese harbors at night or transfer the contraband goods to colluding Taiwanese fishing boats, with criminal rings coordinating communication, prosecutors said.
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