Hong Kong police and customs officers in an anti-smuggling operation confiscated HK$1.45 million worth of pangolin, an endangered species and a Chinese delicacy, into the city on Monday.
The law enforcement agencies mounted a joint operation to combat smuggling activities in Sai Kung and Tseung Kwan O at about 2.30pm Monday, amid the rising number of smugglers at sea.
Officers took enforcement action after spotting six people loading goods onto a speedboat at Che Keng Tuk Road in Sai Kung. Two other men from the vessel fled to the shore of Kau Sai Chau, an island offshore of the area.
A police spokesman said that a total of 25 cartons – five on shore and 20 on the boat – of suspected frozen pangolin were seized.
“Officers also seized a vehicle which was suspected to be used for smuggling.”
The eight suspected smugglers evaded arrest as the operation closed in. They remain at large, and the case is still under investigation.
Customs had warned earlier that smuggling gangs had moved their activities closer to the marine boundaries of Hong Kong and the mainland to avoid being caught.
Contraband items transported include endangered species and expensive delicacies such as bird’s nest and lobsters.
The change in tactics followed a rise in smuggling at sea, with the number of cases jumping year-on-year by 57 per cent to 33 cases in the first four months of 2016.
That number is more than half of the 61 cases recorded in the whole of last year.
Under the Import and Export Ordinance, the exporting of unmanifested cargo carries a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine of HK$2 million.
Any person found guilty of exporting an endangered species without a licence is liable for a maximum fine of HK$5 million and imprisonment for two years.
Want to help pangolins? DONATE to Pangolin Conservation. All donations directly support our work, including our programs in West Africa to study and mitigate the trade. West Africa is currently becoming ground zero, and we’re here to keep these animals from going extinct! We’re a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charitable organization located in the USA. Our tax EIN is 47-4093670 and our tax-exempt status can be verified with the IRS by searching for our parent organization (Zoological Conservation) using our EIN number. We operate under the dba Pangolin Conservation. Our staff is unpaid and every donation goes to fully fund our conservation, research, and educational activities.