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May 21, 2014

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9 nabbed in crackdown on incense smuggling

THE rise in popularity of incense among wealthy consumers has sparked an increase in related fraud and smuggling cases, customs officials said.

Since the start of the year, Shanghai Customs officials have apprehended nine people linked to six incense-related crimes. The goods involved had a combined value of more than 154 million yuan (US$24.7 million).

In a case in February, Yuanmu Co attempted to evade import duties by falsifying documents relating to 200 sets of incense and censers at Wusong Customs.

Among the imported items was a package containing 4 kilograms of aloeswood and a burner, which the company declared as costing 8,000 yen. On the website of the original supplier, however, the product had a list price of 250,000 yuan (or more than 4 million yen).

Further investigations found that the 200 sets had a combined value of about 27 million yen.

Such a massive discrepancy between actual and declared prices is very rare, customs officials said.

Investigators later discovered that Yuanmu had developed a computer program to automatically calculate false declaration prices for various products based on their real values.

Officials said the company produced false declarations for about 107 million yen worth of goods since it began importing incense and censers in 2010.

In a crackdown on the smuggling of incense products held from February 19 to April 4, Shanghai Customs cracked five cases involving 150 million yuan worth of goods. A sixth case, with goods valued at more than 3.8 million yuan was cracked on May 8.

In all of them, the smuggled items originated in Japan and were described as being of a higher quality than equivalent products made locally.

Though the use of incense began in China, Japan is now a major exporter of such products.

The very best items are affordable only to the country’s wealthiest people, with incenses made from aloeswood among the most expensive available.

Censers come in a range of materials, including copper, iron, porcelain and silver, with the priciest generally being handcrafted. They range in price from a few thousand to several hundred thousand yuan.

The exclusivity and high prices of the products has attracted a growing number of criminal groups keen to cash in on the lucrative market, officials said.


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