Chinese Officials Dismantle iPhone Smuggling Ring Worth $80 Million USD

Authorities have dismantled a Chinese smuggling ring who used a system of drones, giant motorised wheels, and cables to smuggle more than $79 million USD worth of mobile phones between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.

According to a new report from Reuters, officials arrested 26 people in Shenzhen and seized two drones, two wheels, and 4,000 mobile phones worth $2.5 million USD. In Hong Kong, customs officers confiscated 900 phones worth $575,000 USD, and arrested three men.

“It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” the Legal Daily reported, citing a news conference held by Shenzhen customs on Thursday.

Basically, the smugglers used drones to fly two 660-foot cables from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, reads the report. Those cables were used to transport quantities of iPhones worth 500 million yuan ($79.6 million USD) to the mainland, where they could be sold via the black market for a hefty profit.

Chen Liang, deputy chief of the Wenjindu branch of Shenzhen’s anti-smuggling bureau, said the gang then worked from midnight to 5am each morning in an effort to avoid detection.

“Each day, 10,000 to 15,000 mobile phones were smuggled across the border,” Chen said. “As they operated 15 days a month, its monthly income reached over 10 million yuan.”

Smuggling of high-value products — like iPhones, jewelry, and luxury products — is nothing new in China. In fact, according to the report, the government has been working hard to crackdown on the practice and do a better job of breaking up what has become an increasingly powerful black market.