A 37 year old unemployed Chinese woman visiting New Zealand for the first time never made it past Auckland Airport after she was found smuggling two suitcases full of cigarettes.
Ministry for Primary Industries officials conducting x-ray checks noticed unusual images of the woman’s suitcases and, after opening one, found it was full of cartons of cigarettes.
The passenger was referred to Customs and a full baggage search revealed the two suitcases contained 89 cartons, totalling 17,800 cigarettes. There was minimal clothing or other personal items.
The cigarettes were not declared on her arrival card, and the cartons over the duty free allowance racked up charges of over $10,200.
When interviewed, the non English-speaking woman said she had brought the cigarettes to sell in New Zealand as the exchange rate was good.
Customs Auckland Airport Manager, Lloyd Smith, says passengers receive a duty free concession for one carton of cigarettes and anything over this is liable for duty and GST charges.
“Customs often catches passengers trying to smuggle in a few extra cartons, but intercepting two suitcases full of cigarettes is certainly unusual.”
“It’s not illegal to import cigarettes, but they must be declared and the correct duty and GST paid,” Mr Smith says
As the passenger was not able to pay the duty and GST, she was fined and referred to Immigration New Zealand who subsequently refused her entry into New Zealand.
The woman was sent back to China and the cigarettes were seized.
The cigarettes will be destroyed.