Macau’s Customs Service said Monday that its officers have seized the largest amount of untaxed tobacco since the 1999 handover, with the confiscation of 4.38 tonnes of untaxed tobacco, amounting to about 870,000 patacas in unpaid tax.
A Customs spokesperson pointed out that the confiscated tobacco could have been used to make some 4.78 million cigarettes.
The spokesperson also estimated that the government would have lost about 2.43 million patacas in tax revenue if all the untaxed tobacco had been turned into cigarettes and then been sold in the city.
The spokesperson made the announcement during a press conference held at a Macau Customs Service office in Ilha Verde in Macau peninsula.
The spokesperson was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying that a 41-year-old local man surnamed Cheong, who owns a trading company, had been questioned by Customs officers but since been released.
According to the spokesperson, on Saturday a number of Customs officers started searching a unit in a building in the Macau-Zhuhai Cross Border Industrial Park in Ilha Verde after an in-depth investigation which was carried out based on intelligence received from its Hong Kong counterpart.
The spokesperson pointed out that all the untaxed tobacco was discovered in a single container.
According to information provided by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, the suspect container was believed to be on a ship on Friday attempting to enter Hong Kong but the captain changed his mind and headed for Macau instead, after which the local Customs Service kept a close eye on the vessel.
The local Customs officers also discovered that the container was being shipped to Macau on a different vessel to the one indicated by the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, said the spokesperson, who added that the ship’s manifesto stated that the container was filled with foods including rice and Chinese dates imported by the trading company owned by Cheong.
After the ship with the container arrived at the docks in the Inner Harbour the firm chose not to remove the cargo from the container at the docks but requested to have the whole container delivered to a unit in the cross-border industrial park, said the spokesperson, adding that the Customs officers went to search the unit on Saturday which they thought would be the best time to carry out the raid.
After checking the 40 foot (67.11 cubic metre) container, which was half full of the foodstuff listed in the manifesto and had cleared Customs, officials found that the other half contained 171 cardboard boxes and 67 synthetic sacks all of which were full of tobacco, according to the spokesperson.
The spokesperson declined to say where the tobacco had come from and what is final destination had been.
The spokesperson said that anyone found breaking Macau’s External Trade Law faced a fine of 5,000 to 100,000 patacas.(macaunews)