Hong Kong authorities are investigating a possible new trend in cross-border gold smuggling after discovering HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) worth of the precious metal under the passenger seat of a truck arriving from mainland China.
The city’s first gold smuggling case in nearly three years came to light last Thursday when customs officers at the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint pulled a truck over for inspection as it arrived from Shenzhen.
“The truck was registered as carrying electronic goods, but officers discovered a bag of gold bars in a compartment under the front passenger seat,” a law enforcement source said.
“Inside the bag, there were 20 gold bars. Each bar weighed 1kg and the haul has an estimated value of HK$10 million.”
The 37-year-old driver was arrested for importing unmanifested cargo, an offence that carries maximum penalties of seven years in jail and a HK$2 million fine under the city’s Import and Export Ordinance.
The man has been released on bail pending further investigation by the Customs and Excise Department’s syndicate crimes investigation bureau.
There is a difference in gold prices in Hong Kong and mainland China. The city’s gold price is about 10 to 20 per cent higher than the price on the other side of the border
A law enforcement source
According to the department, the last gold smuggling case took place in December 2017.
The law enforcement source said he believed last week’s seizure could be attributed to the rising price of gold this year. Valued at US$1,500 (HK$11,600) an ounce earlier this year, gold was selling for more than US$1,900 per ounce as of Tuesday afternoon.
The source added it was possible mainlanders hoping to cash in gold at the higher price were attempting to circumvent stringent regulations on its trading, import and export on the mainland, where it currently sells for significantly less.
“There is a difference in gold prices in Hong Kong and mainland China,” he said. “The city’s gold price is about 10 to 20 per cent higher than the price on the other side of the border.”
The source said inspections at border checkpoints would be stepped up.
“Customs will continue to take stringent enforcement action against cross-boundary smuggling activities through risk assessment and intelligence analysis,” a spokesman for the department said.
Members of the public can report suspected smuggling activities to the department’s 24-hour hotline at 2545 6182.
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