Home NewsAustralia China banned Australian lobsters, but a smuggling operation worth $1.75m tried another way

China banned Australian lobsters, but a smuggling operation worth $1.75m tried another way

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Towards the backdrop of commerce sanctions on Australian lobsters, smugglers have been caught attempting to take practically 2,000 kilograms of reside lobster and sea cucumber into China.

Hong Kong Customs officers stated they seized 890 kilograms of reside lobsters and 930 kilograms of sea cucumbers, with a complete estimated worth of 10 million Hong Kong {dollars} ($1.75 million).

Two males aged 40 and 45 suspected to be linked to the case had been additionally arrested, the assertion added.

Lui Siu-fai, the divisional commander of the town’s Syndicate Crimes Investigation Bureau, stated the origin of the smuggled items was nonetheless below investigation and the packing containers weren’t labelled with a rustic of origin.

A suspected smuggler is escorted by officers from the Hong Kong Customs
Hong Kong Customs says smuggling poses a risk to nationwide safety.(AP: Kin Cheung)

The seized contraband was discovered aboard a double-engined speedboat attempting to go away a harbour on the south of Hong Kong Island below the duvet of darkness, he stated.

“I consider that a lot of the smuggled items had been [to be] shipped to mainland China,” he stated.

Blocking lobsters a part of ‘nationwide safety’ drive

Lobsters are thought-about a delicacy in Chinese language delicacies, and China had beforehand accounted for over 90 per cent of Australia’s lobster exports.

However that modified in 2020, when diplomatic tensions noticed Beijing impose a collection of unofficial commerce hurdles on Australian produce.

Exports of lobsters to Hong Kong then soared — Hong Kong and Australia have a separate free commerce deal — with a number of the reside seafood discovering its approach to mainland cities.

This is called “gray buying and selling” — that’s, when fishers export the sanctioned items first to a 3rd nation to bypass a ban.

The follow, which isn’t unlawful, permits the products to then be repackaged and delivered to the supposed nation. 

Red lobsters are seen close up underwater
Australia is difficult China’s commerce measures on the World Commerce Group.(AP: Kin Cheung)

The most recent Customs seizure got here weeks after the same anti-smuggling operation in October noticed authorities seize 5,300 kilograms of Australian lobster and arrest 13 individuals suspected to be linked to the case.

Hong Kong Customs head Louise Ho cited the crackdown on alleged smuggling of Australian lobsters to the Chinese language mainland as a part of a mission to safeguard nationwide safety.

“On the face of it, it is only a regular smuggling case, smuggling lobsters. However really, these smuggling actions would undermine the nation’s commerce restrictions on Australia,” she stated.

“Due to this fact, tackling lobster-smuggling actions is a crucial process in safeguarding nationwide safety.”

China’s lobster ban got here after the Australian authorities pushed for a world investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

China has since blocked different Australian imports together with wine, barley, cotton and coal.

Beijing’s commerce practices are being reviewed by the World Commerce Group, with Australia arguing they’re inconsistent with WTO guidelines.

Australia’s ambassador to the WTO stated final month that China had “carried out commerce disruptive measures” which had ended Australia’s exports of a dozen commodities, together with lobster.

Australia lobster exports to China, beforehand value greater than $720 million a yr, had been “considerably impacted following the Common Administration of Customs China notification on 5 November 2020 they might be subjected to enhanced inspection”, a spokesperson for Australia’s Commerce Minister Dan Tehan stated.

Australians are anticipated to have the ability to buy half-price lobsters this Christmas, with Victorian lobsters expected to cost $70 per kilo compared to the usual $140, as a result of Chinese language market being closed to exports.

ABC/wires

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