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Amber smugglers nabbed in Shenzhen

By Zhang Yan (China Daily)

13:27, February 08, 2012

BEIJING - Shenzhen customs officers in South China's Guangdong province detained three people suspected to have smuggled amber worth millions of yuan into the country.

Two Taiwan residents and one mainland manager were detained. The amount of money involved was up to 828 million yuan ($131 million), and the group is suspected of evading customs duties totaling around 120 million yuan, according to a statement given by the General Administration of Customs on Tuesday.

"At present, the three suspects have been transferred to the Shenzhen people's prosecutors office and are awaiting charges," said Tao Yong, a spokesperson from the General Administration of Customs.

The suspects allegedly falsely designated amber as rosin, a less expensive form of hardened resin, in their customs declarations to avoid duties, and they also declared prices at lower rates.

The group allegedly smuggled a total of 232 tons of imported amber materials valued at 828 million yuan.

Amber is resin from tens of millions of years ago that has become fossilized over millennia. It is highly valued for its aesthetic and medicinal value.

In nature, amber is far more rare than rosin, so its prices and taxes are much higher. The combined tax rate on imported rosin is 20.5 percent, while tariffs on amber can go as high as 35 percent, according to customs officials.

In April 2011, while Shenzhen customs officers were on regular patrols at the airport, they became suspicious about a container with irregularities in its paperwork.

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