Smugglers Accused Of Hiding $10 Million Of Gold By Painting It Silver

By Bill Galluccio

April 9, 2024

Gold pieces disguised as machine parts
Photo: Customs and Excise Department of Hong Kong

Authorities in Hong Kong recently made one of the biggest gold smuggling busts in the country's history. The Hong Kong Department of Customs and Excise said they discovered over 320 pounds of gold worth $10 million hidden on a cargo plane heading for Japan.

The gold was molded into machine parts and installed inside two air compressors. The suspected smugglers painted the gold pieces silver to match the color of the machine parts, which are made of aluminum or cast iron.

The deception was discovered when customs officials at Hong Kong International Airport X-rayed the pair of compressors. After noticing oddities on the X-ray, they opened up the compressors and found that the metal parts had been swapped out.

"After removing the motor's casing, we found its rotor was wrapped in a cord wheel, which was tied with tape. It was not similar to a normal motor," Assistant Superintendent Ho Tin-hong of the customs' air cargo division told the South China Morning Post"We took out the rotor and found traces of glue on both ends. We tapped the rotor lightly with a hammer and noticed unevenness, suggesting the metal was somewhat fragile. Scraping off the paint revealed a gold-colored surface."

Acting Senior Superintendent Jason Lau Yuk-lung told the outlet that the smugglers would have saved about $1 million in import taxes if the gold had not been discovered.

About a week after the discovery, authorities arrested a 31-year-old man on suspicion of attempting to export unmanifested cargo. He was not identified and was released on bail. If convicted, he faces up to seven years in jail and a fine of $25,000.

Officials said the investigation remains open and that more arrests are possible.

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