Customs seizes $10 million worth of illicit cigarettes (with photos)

Hong Kong Customs mounted a two week special operation from mid December, 2013, targeting cross boundary smuggling of illicit cigarettes and distribution of cigarettes in the territory. In the operation, two cross boundary vehicles suspected to be conveying illicit cigarettes were seized and five illicit cigarette storage points were smashed. About 3.95 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized. The total market value was estimated at $10 million with a duty potential of about $6.7 million. Four men and three women aged between 23 and 63 were arrested.

The Customs stepped up enforcement actions against illicit cigarette activities during the Christmas and New Year holidays. With comprehensive intelligence analysis, Customs officers intercepted two incoming cross boundary vehicles at the boundary control point and seized about 3.52 million sticks of illicit cigarettes on the vehicles. The two male drivers were arrested.

At the distribution level, five illicit cigarette storage points located in Tuen Mun, Choi Hung and Causeway Bay were smashed. Two men and three women were arrested. It was believed that the suspected illicit cigarette syndicate had been smashed. The syndicate was found to smuggle a large number of illicit cigarettes into the territory repeatedly within a short period of time so as to maintain a constant supply. The operation marked the effectiveness of the Customs’ strategy of enhancing enforcement at source.

From January to November, 2013, the Customs detected 24 significant smuggling cases with an average of about 1.6 million sticks of illicit cigarettes in each case. During the period, a total of 38 million sticks of illicit cigarettes were seized, higher than total seizure made in 2012 (17 significant cases and about 27 million sticks of illicit cigarettes respectively).

The Head of Revenue and General Investigation Bureau, Mr Mak Hoi wan, said at a press conference today (January 4), “The operation showed the effectiveness of enhancing the enforcement strategy at source. The Customs will continue to spare no effort to undertake stringent enforcement against illicit cigarettes activities on all fronts for protection of government revenue.”

Under the Import and Export Ordinance, smuggling is a serious offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years.

Under the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance, anyone involved in dealing with, possession of, selling or buying illicit cigarettes commits an offence. The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 million and imprisonment for two years.

Members of the public are urged to report suspected illicit cigarette activities by calling the Customs’ 24 hour hotline 2545 6182.

Ends/Saturday, January 4, 2014
Issued at HKT 16 32


Books v. cigarettes – essay by george orwell

European cigarettes to liverpool
Books v. Cigarettes
by George Orwell
Tribune, 8 February 1946

A couple of years ago a friend of mine, a newspaper editor, was fire watching with some factory workers. They fell to talking about his newspaper, which most of them read and approved of, but when he asked them what they thought of the literary section, the answer he got was “You don’t suppose we read that stuff, do you? Why, half the time you’re talking about books that cost twelve and sixpence! Chaps like us couldn’t spend twelve and sixpence on a book.” These, he said, were men who thought nothing of spending several pounds on a day trip to Blackpool.

This idea that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby and beyond the reach of the average person is so widespread that it deserves some detailed examination. Exactly what reading costs, reckoned in terms of pence per hour, is difficult to estimate, but I have made a start by inventorying my own books and adding up their total price. After allowing for various other expenses, I can make a fairly good guess at my expenditure over the last fifteen years.

The books that I have counted and priced are the ones I have here, in my flat. I have about an equal number stored in another place, so that I shall double the final figure in order to arrive at the complete amount. I have not counted oddments such as proof copies, defaced volumes, cheap paper covered editions, pamphlets, or magazines, unless bound up into book form. Nor have I counted the kind of junky books old school text books and so forth that accumulate in the bottoms of cupboards. I have counted only those books which I have acquired voluntarily, or else would have acquired voluntarily, and which I intend to keep. In this category I find that I have 442 books, acquired in the following ways

Bought (mostly second hand) 251 Given to me or bought with book tokens 33 Review copies and complimentary copies 143 Borrowed and not returned 10 Temporarily on loan 5 TOTAL 442

Now as to the method of pricing. Those books that I have bought I have listed at their full price, as closely as I can determine it. I have also listed at their full price the books that have been given to me, and those that I have temporarily borrowed, or borrowed and kept. This is because book giving, book borrowing and book stealing more or less even out. I possess books that do not strictly speaking belong to me, but many other people also have books of mine so that the books I have not paid for can be taken as balancing others which I have paid for but no longer possess. On the other hand I have listed the review and complimentary copies at half price. That is about what I would have paid for them second hand, and they are mostly books that I would only have bought second hand, if at all. For the prices I have sometimes had to rely on guesswork, but my figures will not be far out. The costs were as follows

s. d. Bought 36 9 0 Gifts 10 10 0 Review copies, etc 25 11 9 Borrowed and not returned 4 16 9 On loan 3 10 0 Shelves 2 0 0 TOTAL 82 17 6

Adding the other batch of books that I have elsewhere, it seems that I possess altogether nearly 900 books, at a cost of 165 15s. This is the accumulation of about fifteen years actually more, since some of these books date from my childhood but call it fifteen years. This works out at 11 1s. a year, but there are other charges that must be added in order to estimate my full reading expenses. The biggest will be for newspapers and periodicals, and for this I think 8 a year would be a reasonable figure. Eight pounds a year covers the cost of two daily papers, one evening paper, two Sunday papers, one weekly review and one or two monthly magazines. This brings the figure up to 19 1s, but to arrive at the grand total one has to make a guess. Obviously one often spends money on books without afterwards having anything to show for it. There are library subscriptions, and there are also the books, chiefly Penguins and other cheap editions, which one buys and then loses or throws away. However, on the basis of my other figures, it looks as though 6 a year would be quite enough to add for expenditure of this kind. So my total reading expenses over the past fifteen years have been in the neighbourhood of 25 a year.

Twenty five pounds a year sounds quite a lot until you begin to measure it against other kinds of expenditure. It is nearly 9s 9d a week, and at present 9s 9d is the equivalent of about 83 cigarettes (Players) even before the war it would have bought you less than 200 cigarettes. With prices as they now are, I am spending far more on tobacco than I do on books. I smoke six ounces a week, at half a crown an ounce, making nearly 40 a year. Even before the war when the same tobacco cost 8d an ounce, I was spending over 10 a year on it and if I also averaged a pint of beer a day, at sixpence, these two items together will have cost me close on 20 a year. This was probably not much above the national average. In 1938 the people of this country spent nearly 10 per head per annum on alcohol and tobacco however, 20 per cent of the population were children under fifteen and another 40 per cent were women, so that the average smoker and drinker must have been spending much more than 10. In 1944, the annual expenditure per head on these items was no less than 23. Allow for the women and children as before, and 40 is a reasonable individual figure. Forty pounds a year would just about pay for a packet of Woodbines every day and half a pint of mild six days a week not a magnificent allowance. Of course, all prices are now inflated, including the price of books still, it looks as though the cost of reading, even if you buy books instead of borrowing them and take in a fairly large number of periodicals, does not amount to more than the combined cost of smoking and drinking.

It is difficult to establish any relationship between the price of books and the value one gets out of them. “Books” includes novels, poetry, text books, works of reference, sociological treatises and much else, and length and price do not correspond to one another, especially if one habitually buys books second hand. You may spend ten shillings on a poem of 500 lines, and you may spend sixpence on a dictionary which you consult at odd moments over a period of twenty years. There are books that one reads over and over again, books that become part of the furniture of one’s mind and alter one’s whole attitude to life, books that one dips into but never reads through, books that one reads at a single sitting and forgets a week later and the cost, in terms of money, may be the same in each case. But if one regards reading simply as a recreation, like going to the pictures, then it is possible to make a rough estimate of what it costs. If you read nothing but novels and “light” literature, and bought every book that you read, you would be spending allowing eight shillings as the price of a book, and four hours as the time spent in reading it two shillings an hour. This is about what it costs to sit in one of the more expensive seats in the cinema. If you concentrated on more serious books, and still bought everything that you read, your expenses would be about the same. The books would cost more but they would take longer to read. In either case you would still possess the books after you had read them, and they would be saleable at about a third of their purchase price. If you bought only second hand books, your reading expenses would, of course, be much less perhaps sixpence an hour would be a fair estimate. And on the other hand if you don’t buy books, but merely borrow them from the lending library, reading costs you round about a halfpenny an hour if you borrow them from the public library, it costs you next door to nothing.

I have said enough to show that reading is one of the cheaper recreations after listening to the radio probably the cheapest. Meanwhile, what is the actual amount that the British public spends on books? I cannot discover any figures, though no doubt they
exist. But I do know that before the war this country was publishing annually about 15,000 books, which included reprints and school books. If as many as 10,000 copies of each book were sold and even allowing for the school books, this is probably a high estimate the average person was only buying, directly or indirectly, about three books a year. These three books taken together might cost 1, or probably less.

These figures are guesswork, and I should be interested if someone would correct them for me. But if my estimate is anywhere near right, it is not a proud record for a country which is nearly 100 per cent literate and where the ordinary man spends more on cigarettes than an Indian peasant has for his whole livelihood. And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.

Source CW18 2892