Facepalm: Are Chinese smugglers getting sloppier, customs officers getting better, or more people simply trying their luck? It's not been three weeks since we last heard about what now seems to be a Chinese pastime – trying to smuggle tech into the country without paying taxes – but there's been another incident to add to the list. This time, a whopping 780 Intel processors worth over $137,000 were discovered in the engine of a cross-border bus.
Tom's Hardware writes that this latest attempt was foiled when the smugglers tried to pass through Gongbei Port connecting Macau and Zhuhai in China.
The customs officers noticed something was amiss when they examined the digital imagery of a cross-border bus. A closer look at the engine revealed it had been modified to hide smuggled items: 780 Intel processors, on this occasion.
It appears that the CPUs were relatively recent models, either 12th-gen Alder Lake or 13th-gen Raptor Lake chips. It's estimated that the entire haul was worth over one million yuan, or around $137,341. That means each CPU was valued at about $176 on average.
We've seen plenty of imaginative ways of evading Chinese customs officials' inspections. Most people go down the popular route of strapping hardware to their body, though we've also seen them stuff 84 SSDs inside a scooter, and hide 200 CPUs inside a fake pregnant belly. One person tried to smuggle HK$30 million (about $3.8 million) of electronics through Man Kam To Control Point from Hong Kong into mainland China by simply lying about what was inside the crates they were transporting.
In April, reports revealed that the total value of all hardware being smuggled into China and subsequently seized by customs officers had reached a staggering $4 million. This figure only accounts for the contraband that was detected. The actual value, including equipment that may have passed through undetected, is likely to be significantly higher.
Selling anything into China without paying import taxes can result in a lucrative profit for smugglers. Plenty of people in the country are willing to buy the hardware despite the lack of a warranty as it's usually a lot cheaper on the gray market.
Most people opt for the strapping technique when smuggling items into the Asian nation. A man tried this with 68 iPhones (above) earlier this month. There was also a case in which a man strapped 420 SSDs to his body. Going further back, a pair of men tried to smuggle 256 Intel Core i7-10700 and Core i9-10900K processors, then worth $123,000, by attaching them to their calves and torsos at the height of the chip shortage in 2021. Another man did the same thing a year later, wrapping 160 CPUs and 16 folding phones to his body, and it was March when someone tried this with 239 CPUs.