In recent days, customs authorities reported that China had disrupted a smuggling operation involving nearly one million tons of refined oil worth 5 billion yuan ($770 million), in which 11 ships were seized and 171 suspects were arrested.
The operation, in which customs officials in the port city of Ningbo joined forces with local and maritime police, covered eight Chinese regions, including the coastal provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Fujian, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement.
A total of 14 gangs were detained on Tuesday, the agency added. It was unclear whether the gangs were trying to smuggle oil into or out of the country. China is Asia’s largest refiner and consumer of petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel.
Customs authorities described the operation as “one of the most extensive” to combat smuggling of refined oil along China’s southeast coast in recent years, in terms of area.
Such smuggling disrupts the retail fuel market, carries serious safety risks and causes pollution, it said, adding that the smuggled refined oil was of inferior quality and had sulfur content well above stipulated limits.
The customs agency said it had launched a nationwide coordinated campaign against refined oil smuggling in August last year, focusing on hot spots such as the Pearl River and Yangtze River deltas, and had recorded 170 cases involving 5.4 billion yuan worth of products by the end of February.