HCM CITY: Smuggling of cigarettes from Cambodia into HCM City is becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it hard for authorities to combat it, the HCM City Market Management Department has said.
With its large size and market, the city is one of the country’s tobacco smuggling hubs.
Phan Hoan Kiem, head of the department, said smugglers took advantage of waterways on the international border to bring a large amount of contraband cigarettes by boat to Long An Province. There the cigarettes were divided into smaller quantities to be transported to the city.
According to Kiem, smugglers bringing contraband from Cambodia into Tay Ninh Province have changed their modus operandi, switching from public buses to tourist buses and taxis.
In border areas in Long An and Tay Ninh, smuggling is done both day and night using various tricks and in small quantities to minimise problems if caught.
Smugglers often change their location and timings and use modern transport and communication means.
In the city, trading of contraband cigarettes at wholesale markets, including Hoc Lac Market in District 5, is also very sophisticated, with shop owners there having intimate relations with illegal tobacco suppliers.
Only a small number of smuggled cigarettes is displayed at stores in the market. This is to throw dust in authorities’ eyes since transporting or selling less than 1,500 illegal packets of tobacco is not a crime and attracts only an administrative penalty.
Kiem said traders at the market were wary of new buyers who wanted to buy a large quantity.
From now to the Lunar New Year – in early February – would be the peak time for cigarette smuggling, and so the city would strengthen measures to combat smuggling and fakes, he said.
The city’s market management agencies would work closer with their provincial counterparts to combat smuggling and transport of contraband goods, he added.
Between October last year and last September, market authorities in HCM City busted 2,355 cases of cigarette smuggling, confiscating nearly 1.5 million packets and collecting VND13.07 billion (US$580,900) in fines.