Police have arrested three people in Hong Kong after discovering a massive shipment of undeclared iPhones, Apple Watches, iPads, and assorted luxury items. The suspected smugglers were attempting to sneak the products into China to avoid paying tax on imports.
The South China Morning Post describes it as one of the “biggest hauls of electronic goods” in Hong Kong history. The total value of the tech products was $1 million. Other smuggled goods, including tech components and edible bird’s nests, were worth an extra $2.2 million.
“Some electronic products are brand new and the latest models,” law enforcement said. “We don’t rule out the possibility that these are for festive gifts.”
Hong Kong police and customs officials discovered the consignment of iPhones and other devices as part of an anti-smuggling operation. It followed a two-month investigation. They arrested the men as they unloaded boxes from a van into a cargo ship. The three men were between 34 and 38 in age.
“The secret compartment [in the boat] was found below the floor of a cabin when officers removed a bed,” said Jonathan Leung Yiu-man, head of customs’ marine investigation division. The plan was to store the products there and then smuggle them into China.
This is a way of bypassing the import tax on these items. This can be up to 17% of their total value. As a 2011 article for Jing Daily notes, smuggling has become more prevalent in recent years to get around Beijing’s duty free cap of 50,000 yuan.
The punishment for importing or exporting undeclared cargo in Hong Kong is up to seven years in jail and a $130,000 fine.