Hong Kong authorities have made their largest seizure yet of counterfeit masks, worth HK$3 million (US$387,000) that were destined for the overseas market.
A 71-year-old owner of a local trading company was arrested on suspicion of violating the Trade Descriptions Ordinance – an offence that carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail and a HK$500,000 fine.
The haul of about 100,000 bogus 3M-brand N95 respirators was found hidden in a warehouse in Yuen Long on Wednesday, according to the Customs and Excise Department.
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On the same day, customs officers raided the San Po Kong office of the trading company and arrested the suspect at his home in Kowloon City.
Saying it was the city’s biggest seizure of this kind, Senior Superintendent Tse Kwok-keung of the customs’ intellectual property investigation bureau added the consignment was not meant for the local market.
“We believe as the pandemic situation overseas shows no signs of abating, some merchants are trying to take this opportunity to make profits by selling counterfeit masks in markets abroad,” he said.
He said investigation showed the fakes were to be sold to buyers at the price of HK$30 each. In Hong Kong, a genuine respirator of similar kind is priced around HK$50.
Tse said these respirators were usually used by medical professionals, so he believed the potential users could be those working in hospitals and health care facilities abroad.
He said customs officers were investigating the final destination of the fake products. “They were not made in Hong Kong. We are also investigating where they came from,” he said.
He said the bogus products could be easily distinguished from the genuine ones because of the blurred fonts printed on the fakes.
Samples of the seized items have been sent to a laboratory to check whether their bacterial counts exceed the legal limit under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance.
The elderly suspect has been released on bail, pending further investigation.
Since January 27, customs officers have inspected 3,800 retail outlets selling protective health gear across the city. So far, officers have arrested 80 people while investigating 30 cases under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance and Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance.
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