Hong Kong Bust Nets Half a Million Smuggled Components Worth $4 Million

Smuggling crates
(Image credit: The Standard)

Earlier this week Hong Kong authorities saw their biggest tech smuggling bust since 2018. A man tried to smuggle around 510,000 electronic products (CPUs, SSDs, and smart devices) into mainland China. The Hong Kong Standard reports that the goods were worth HK$30 million (nearly USD$4 million).

In an audacious attempt to make the most of the tech goods pricing gap between Hong Kong and mainland China, a 61-year-old man attempted to get 30 wooden crates though customs. His apparent plan was to swerve sizable duty payments by misdeclaring the contents of the crates. Customs say the contents were claimed to be ‘electronic screens’, which we must assume were marked at a much lower value, and would attract much lower duty payments to cross the border. Officers x-rayed the crates to tally over half a million electronic components. Compact and high value parts appear to have been focused upon by the smuggler, but in addition to the CPUs, SSDs, HDDs etc there were some smartphones and laptops.

Smuggling tech into China appears to be a tempting route to ‘easy money’ judging by the number of smugglers hitting the headlines, and the extraordinary lengths taken to conceal the black market goods. The above case is eye-catching due to its scale, but in view of other recent stories we are disappointed by the unimaginative attempt by the smuggler who had been released on bail.

Stills from the "CPU Man" arrest.

(Image credit: Chinese Customs Office)

Earlier this week, for example, a man tried to smuggle nearly 240 Intel Core i5-13400F processors into China. He had taped them in minimal packaging around his body and legs. He pushed his luck though, as the 'CPU body armor' strangely affected his appearance, and customs officers investigated. Late last year a woman tried to get a mix of 200 Intel CPUs and 9 iPhones into China without paying duty by stuffing them into a fake belly. Again her unusual appearance (and movement) caught the eye of customs officers. Earlier this month a plan to smuggle 84 M.2 SSDs into China by secreting them within the tubular frame of a scooter was also foiled.

The above smuggling failure stories are probably just the tip of the iceberg. We assume that the most devious, cunning, and successful smuggling ploys haven’t been reported by the news because they haven’t been found out.

Mark Tyson
News Editor

Mark Tyson is a news editor at Tom's Hardware. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.