US$10 million worth of smuggled beer busted in China

Customs officials in Ningbo city in eastern China have raided a cross-city beer smuggling ring that led to the discovery of smuggled beer exceeding RMB 70 million (US$10.46 million) in value, the biggest smuggled beer bust in years.

Ningbo customs officials inspecting the confiscated smuggled beer

The bust happened at the same time as the World Cup when demand for beer in China saw a sharp increase from football fans watching the games.

Furthermore, earlier this year the leading brewers in mainland China including Snow, Yanjing, and Tsingtao raised their prices for both bottled and canned beers as a result of growing labour costs and rising cost of raw materials. The price rise was between 10% and 20%, according to Chinese media reports.

According to the statement posted on General Administration of Customs, a Fujian-based company in southern China has found to be deliberately under declaring their imported beers including brands such as Heineken and Belgium’s Rochefort, and selling imported beers in cities in Zhejiang, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Twelve suspects in relation to the case have been arrested, according to the administration. In China, suspects charged with smuggling can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, and fined for as much as five times of the value of the smuggled goods, according to Chinese criminal law.

China is already the world’s biggest beer consumer by volume. Snow Beer, Tsingtao, Beijing Yanjing, Budweiser, and Carlsberg account for about 80% of China’s beer market.

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