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‘Strong, foul smell’: smugglers try to sneak hundreds of tonnes of old clothes into China to resell for profit

Six people have been arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle hundreds of tonnes of used clothing into China by boat so they could be repaired and sold again for a profit, according to a newspaper report.

The vessel was seized off the coast of Shenzhen, the Guanghzhou Daily reported.

The used clothes were closely packed in the boat, sending out a strong, foul smell, according to the report.

Some 549 tonnes of clothes were seized, worth 11 million yuan (HK$12.8 million).

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Five of the suspects were from Taiwan and another mainland suspect was holding a forged Taiwanese passport, according to the report.

The used clothes were smuggled to the mainland through Hong Kong.

The boat initially ignored a police warning and attempted to return to Hong Kong before it was boarded, the article said.

The arrests were made in June, but details were only released by the police this week.

The suspects were quoted as saying that they bought the used clothes from overseas recycling companies for a low price, several yuan for each.

After shipping them to mainland, they would refurbish the old clothes and sell the garments for up to 100 yuan.

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“The old clothes would usually be packaged as new after a series of procedures,” one of the suspects was quoted as saying.

Importing used clothes is banned in China. Many old clothes, which have not been sterilised, could spread infectious diseases, posing a severe public health threat, the report said.

Last month, Guangdong customs seized 53.96 tonnes of metal slag – including e-waste – being imported from the United States through Hong Kong labelled as crude copper.

Chinese law bans the importation of some types of solid waste, including electronics, medical and construction waste and mineral slag, in addition to used clothing.

The country tightened customs checks for the importation of illicit solid wastes in 2013.

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