Seven men were caught while smuggling electronic products through a 20-meter-long tunnel from Hong Kong into neighboring Shenzhen.
The men had to crawl through a tunnel just 67 cm wide before wading through a sewage pipe to get the goods across the border.
It is the first time police have uncovered a tunnel-smuggling case in the southern city, said Song Min, deputy director of the anti-smuggling division of Shenzhen Customs, in a press conference yesterday.
After a month-long investigation, the anti-smuggling force took action on August 25, capturing a gang leader, a truck driver, and five men working in the tunnel.
About 900 mobile phones and 120,000 electronic chips, with a street value of 1.6 million yuan (US$200,000), were seized in the raid. Another matter implicating the men relates to 270,000 yuan (US$33,750) in unpaid taxes, Song said.
Another leading suspect is still at large. Two Hong Kong residents, including the owner of the goods and a man who delivered them, are also being sought.
"We have reported the case to the Hong Kong customs and police. We think the Hong Kong suspects will be punished," Song said.
According to the customs, the gang rented a 15 square-meter single-room apartment last month in Shatoujiao, only a few meters away from the border.
Shenzhen and Hong Kong are divided by a river, but they meet in Shatoujiao.
The smugglers dug straight down for about one meter, and then tunneled toward the Hong Kong side, linking up with a sewage pipe that runs across the border.
A truck parked just outside the Shenzhen apartment received the smuggled products through a side door. One standard smuggling run would take no longer than three minutes.
"The suspects confessed that they spent nearly 20 days digging the tunnel and used it three times," Song told reporters.
He estimated the gang could have smuggled about 500 to 600 million yuan (US$62.5-75 million) worth of products a year through the tunnel had they not been discovered.
(China Daily September 14, 2006)