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Hong Kong Seizures Hit $288 Million in 2023

Credit: Alven 0920

Customs officers in Hong Kong reported that the agency had impounded more than 650 million black market cigarettes worth HK$2.25 billion ($287.8 million) last year, the largest annual cash value in more than two decades, according to media reports.

The seized cigarettes would have generated about HK$1.54 billion in tax revenue, also a record, over the same period, according to an undisclosed source.

Last week, authorities in Hong Kong said they were considering a further increase in tobacco duty.

Last year’s total number of cigarettes seized was lower than the 732 million impounded in 2022, although the value was higher. Last year’s record seizure coincided with a 31 percent tobacco tax increase in February, which raised the average cost of a pack of 20 cigarettes by HK$12 to more than HK$70.

A pack on the black market costs HK$18 to HK$38.

The source said the confiscated tobacco products were stored in government warehouses currently, pending court proceedings or further investigations before being destroyed and buried at landfill sites.

He added customs officials would boost efforts to combat crime syndicates that tried to take advantage of busy logistics services in the run-up to the Lunar New Year to smuggle cigarettes into the city.