BEIJING (Scrap Monster): According to Hong Kong Customs officials, there has been a sharp jump in volumes of gold and silver bars smuggled into the country from main land China during this year. The officers attributed the sudden rise in smuggling acts to the recent rise in gold and silver prices. Incidentally, gold and silver prices have appreciated by 30% and 40% respectively from January 2016 levels. The seizure of smuggled gold and silver bars from China has gone higher significantly, Hong Kong Customs Department noted.
Apart from surge in gold and silver prices, the trade restrictions imposed by mainland authorities on imports and exports of precious metals have also contributed to the abrupt rise in smuggling across the border. The difficulty in obtaining export permits in China has forced traders to pay smugglers to cash in their gold and silver inventory by taking them to Hong Kong.
The Customs data indicate that nearly 2.2 tonnes of smuggled gold and silver were seized by investigators so far this year. There has been no such seizure recorded in 2015 and 2014. The second quarter of the year has reported sudden surge in smuggling acts. Nearly 10 incidents of smuggling across the border from mainland were reported during the past five-month period of 2016. The value of seized gold and silver in 2016 until now amounted to more than HK$33 million. Sources indicate that majority of the seized precious metals were silver and that gold accounted for only a small portion of the seizures.
In one of the biggest seizures, the Customs investigators had unearthed HK$11 million worth of gold bars hidden near the mud-flap of a vehicle being exported from Chinese mainland through Shenzhen Bay border. Most of the smuggled gold enters Hong Kong through imported vehicles. Customs and Excise Department officials noted that smugglers ship gold by mixing them with declared merchandise or by hiding them in compartments made in vehicle interiors. In a bid to curb rising incidents of smuggling acts, Hong Kong authorities have tightened inspection procedures at immigration control points. Mainland authorities have also enhanced the security mechanisms.
The smuggling rackets also use cross-border travelers to smuggle gold and silver from Chinese mainland into Hong Kong. Recently border guards had arrested a woman attempting to smuggle nearly 15 kilograms of gold hidden around her waist. The customs officials who noticed her suspicious behavior during identity check, was detained for further examination. Upon examination, 15 gold bars worth nearly HK$5.2 million were found wrapped around her waist using tape. Earlier in June this year, authorities had seized 76 kilograms of gold worth nearly HK$ 24 million from 12 travelers at the Shenzhen Bay border checkpoint. The law restricts a passenger across the border to carry only up to 250 grams of gold. Any quantity exceeding this must be reported to customs.
The Hong Kong customs officials noted that stricter laws will be implemented to curb all sorts of smugglings acts including those of precious metals including gold and silver. As per country’s laws, smuggling is treated as a serious offence. Any person found guilty of importing or exporting illegal merchandise is eligible for a fine of up to HK$ 2 million and seven-year imprisonment.