Three people were arrested Tuesday after loading agarwood from a warehouse at Pier No. 23 in the Inner Harbour onto a sampan that was ready to head to the mainland China.
A Macau Customs Service spokesperson made the announcement in a press briefing at its headquarters in Barra.
According to the spokesman, Customs officers had been keeping tabs on the 1,800 kg of agarwood since it was imported about a month ago in five separate loads. He said that based on the black market price in the mainland, agarwood was worth between 55 million yuan (71 million patacas) and 166 million yuan (218 million patacas), depending on the quality.
“We’ve only caught smugglers with about 100 kilogrammes of agarwood before,” the spokesman was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying, adding, “This big amount got our attention.”
The spokesman said that the agarwood was imported legally through the airport from Indonesia by a trading company which had even obtained a licence from the government which is mandatory since the wood is part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Since the fragrant wood was imported in Macau a month ago, it had been kept in a warehouse at Pier No. 23, until on Monday when the warehouse manager and two other people loaded 274 kg of agarwood onto the sampan.
According to the spokesperson, besides the agarwood, about six kilogrammes of bird’s nest worth 60,000 patacas and 125 kg of Kobe beef worth 370,000 patacas were also found on the sampan.
The two people who were supposed to take the goods to the mainland on the sampan and the warehouse manager were taken into custody.
The two people, a 36-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman, both from the mainland, admitted to picking up the goods from the warehouse manager and said they together had been promised 2,000 patacas for the job.
The warehouse manager is a 44-year-old local man, the spokesperson said, adding that investigations were continuing to see if the man is also involved in the whole smuggling process and if there are other people involved.
“Agarwood is listed in mainland China’s second level of protected goods. It’s not easy to import the wood to the mainland and needs to be taxed. It’s one reason why they were smuggling it [through Macau],” the spokesman said. (macaunews) ( Photo by The Macau Post Daily)