The number of young people caught carrying contraband, including drugs, as they tried to cross the border has jumped this year, a situation that requires urgent attention, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department said.
There were 91 cross-border smuggling cases involving people aged 21 and below in the first five months of the year, up 44 percent from the same period in 2017, data released by the customs department showed.
Two of the suspects were only 16, the youngest of the cases. One was found smuggling heroin and the other methamphetamine hydrochloride or “ice”, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing the department.
The total number of smuggling cases by passengers at the border rose 53 percent to 6,359 during the period, the report said.
Ida Ng Kit-ching, who heads the Rail and Ferry Command of the department’s Boundary and Ports Branch, said the arrested youths were mainly involved in smuggling illicit cigarettes and drugs.
There were 61 cases involving illicit cigarettes, up 42 percent, and 11 involving drugs, up 175 percent.
Ng said part of the reason for the surge in cigarette smuggling cases was the customs authorities’ stepped-up efforts to combat illicit cigarettes last year.
The cases involved duties worth HK$5.9 million, she said.
Ng said the rise in the number of youngsters involved in smuggling cases could be traced to the misconception that they would not face stiff penalties for their illegal acts in view of their age.
This is a wrong assumption held by some youngsters, she said, citing the case of a 20-year-old man who was sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison last year for trafficking five kilograms of ketamine. For the job he was promised a reward of HK$500.
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