Hong Kong customs has uncovered a second gold smuggling case involving HK$10 million (US$1.28 million) worth of bars from mainland China a week after the first incident.
The seizure on Thursday came after customs officers at the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint pulled an incoming truck over for inspection as it arrived from Shenzhen.
The 20 gold bars, weighing about 20kg, were found hidden inside a specially made waistband and a pair of jeans with compartments the 51-year-old driver was wearing.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
“With the recent rise in the gold price, precious metals may become tools for investment and hedging again,” the Customs and Excise Department said in a statement.
“Together with the stringent regulations imposed on the trading, import and export of gold on the mainland, customs will not rule out the possibility that people therefore arranged for the transport of gold into Hong Kong to cash out.”
The driver was arrested for importing unmanifested cargo, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail and a HK$2 million fine under the Import and Export Ordinance.
At the checkpoint last Thursday, the same quantity of gold was found in a truck that was registered as carrying electronic goods. Officers discovered a bag of 20 gold bars in a compartment under the front passenger seat. Each bar weighed 1kg and the haul also had an estimated value of HK$10 million.
The 37-year-old driver was also arrested for importing unmanifested cargo.
The man was released on bail pending further investigation by customs’ syndicate crimes investigation bureau.
Before last week’s discovery, the last gold smuggling case was uncovered in December 2017, according to the department.
A law enforcement source previously said he believed last week’s seizure could be attributed to the rising price of gold. He added the city’s gold price was 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.
More from South China Morning Post:
- With gold prices soaring, Hong Kong customs busts attempt to smuggle HK$10 million in bars from mainland China
- Meat smuggling syndicate’s assets on chopping block after Hong Kong customs officers arrest 13, seize 160 tonnes of contraband beef
- Mainland Chinese authorities crack down on massive meat smuggling operation, just days after similar raids in Hong Kong