Updated: Sat, 23 Nov 2013 03:29:27 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Hong Kong seizes smuggled cigarettes worth $970,000

Smuggled cigarettes worth nearly $1 million were seized by Hong Kong customs in a two-week operation, officials said.

Hong Kong seizes smuggled cigarettes worth $970,000

Hong Kong customs has seized smuggled cigarettes worth nearly $1 million

"In the operation, two cross-boundary vehicles for smuggling illicit cigarettes were seized and five storage points were smashed," a spokesman for the southern Chinese city government said in a press statement late Friday.

"One of which used fake water heaters to conceal the cigarettes," the customs department said in another statement posted on the government website.

Officials said that about three million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized, with a market value of HK$7.5 million ($970,000) and duty potential of about HK$5.1 million. Five people had been arrested in the operation, the online statement said. 

More smuggled cigarettes had been seized so far this year compared to the previous year, the spokesman added. 

For the first ten months this year, a total of about 36 million sticks of illicit cigarettes had been seized, compared to 27 million seized in the same period last year. 

The former British colony is prone to cigarette smuggling due to its proximity with mainland China with which it is connected by a land border.

Under Hong Kong laws, the maximum penalty for smuggling is a fine of HK$2 million ($250,000) and a seven-year jail term.

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