Smuggler busted with 596 Intel Xeon CPUs valued at $1.5 million — trafficker faces seven-year jailtime and over $256K fine

Photograph of the smuggled CPUs, some outside their containers, from the HK Customs blog post.
Photograph of the smuggled CPUs, some outside their containers, from the HK Customs blog post. (Image credit: Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department)

According to its official blog post, Hong Kong Customs recently intercepted a private car and seized 596 Intel Xeon CPUs valued at about $1.5 million. The authorities arrested one 51-year-old male driver as a direct consequence. The official post ends with a firm warning against smuggling and, of course, encourages anyone who sees it to report it.

The customs officers found the concealed Xeon processors on both sides of the car’s rear and the trunk’s secret compartments. They didn’t share additional information on the chips’ models, but judging by the design, these could be some of Intel’s previous generation of Xeon parts. The authorities estimated the value at $1.5 million, so each chip is worth around $2,579.

In any case, it’s always at least a little impressive to see how far people are willing to go to make a quick, if dangerous, dollar. However, this venture may have been doomed to fail since the masterfully concealed secret compartments of the trunk could still be found using X-ray inspection, and the smuggler(s) in question seems to have been caught. However, it does raise further questions about how many other CPUs and consumer electronics are getting smuggled out without detection by authorities— perhaps a lot more than this, judging by the work on display here.

Photograph of the CPU smuggling setup built into the trunk of a car. (Image credit: Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department)

In the past, we've reported on some other hardware smuggling stories. Rather infamously, a smuggler was busted because her bust appeared unnatural— which sounds cruel to say to another human being before you realize she was carrying 350 Switch games in her brassiere and scandalizing nonetheless, though.

The other major Intel CPU smuggling effort we reported on back in August 2023 had a more impressive customs spread picture—but it was for "only" 780 Intel CPUs, or a total of about $137,000 instead of about $1,500,000, which we don't need to tell you is a significant gap. It does put the high-end nature and sheer scale of this month's big CPU smuggle op into a lot more context, though.

As always, Tom's Hardware does not endorse the smuggling or grand theft of the best CPUs, the fastest GPUs, and other leading hardware. We do, however, report on smuggling and grand theft it happening whenever it's cool enough— just be wary that reporting like that doesn't typically occur until after you're caught, though.

Christopher Harper
Contributing Writer

Christopher Harper has been a successful freelance tech writer specializing in PC hardware and gaming since 2015, and ghostwrote for various B2B clients in High School before that. Outside of work, Christopher is best known to friends and rivals as an active competitive player in various eSports (particularly fighting games and arena shooters) and a purveyor of music ranging from Jimi Hendrix to Killer Mike to the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack.