Four suspected smugglers jumped into the sea from their speedboats and escaped into the mangrove swamp near the Hong Kong border during a joint police and customs operation on Wednesday night.
As of noon on Friday, the four men were still at large.
Officers arrested a 56-year-old male suspect on the shore, seized HK$4 million (US$512,000) worth of electronic goods and impounded a delivery van and the two speedboats at the Lau Fau Shan coastal area.
Dennis Wong Lai-yung, divisional commander of Hong Kong customs’ syndicate crimes investigation bureau, said on Friday that the operation had dealt a heavy blow to a cross-border smuggling ring that had been in operation for about two weeks, ferrying goods across the border to escape taxes.
About 40 customs officers had begun lying in wait at Lau Fau Shan at about 6pm on Wednesday.
Roughly four hours later, two speedboats carrying four people in total entered Hong Kong waters from Shenzhen in mainland China and berthed next to a shipping container at high tide.
Meanwhile, a delivery van arrived, and the driver unloaded cartons from the vehicle and moved them into the container.
Wong said the container was used to store smuggled goods that could be loaded directly onto speedboats through a concealed opening.
As the officers swooped, the four men in the boats abandoned their vessels and fled. Officers scouted the area but found no trace of them.
On land, officers caught the driver and seized 38 cartons of electronic goods from the container and the vehicle. The haul included 7,359 mobile phones, 264 computer tablets, 1,825 USB flash drives and 1,344 portable wireless routers.
A law enforcement source said the goods had an estimated street value of HK$4 million in the city but could be sold for more than HK$4.7 million on the mainland.
The driver was released on bail pending further investigation.
Wong said the investigation was ongoing and further arrests were possible.
In Hong Kong, importing or exporting unmanifested cargo carries a maximum penalty of a seven-year jail sentence and a HK$2 million fine.