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Chinese Smugglers Sneak iPads, iPhones Over Border Using Crossbows

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"Hong Kong and China run independent legal and taxation systems, and smugglers in China often try to get goods from the former British colony to make a profit on the lower prices," reports M.I.C. Gadget. "A group of smugglers used a crossbow and pulley system, with strong fishing line hook up, [to] smuggle Apple products across the river that divides Hong Kong and Shenzhen under the cover of darkness."

DVice has details:

The smugglers started on the 21st floor of a residential complex in Shenzhen, which is one of China's largest cities and located on the country's coast, just north of Hong Kong. Then, they'd fire said 1,000-foot line using a crossbow, sending it over the Sha Tau Kok River, which divides Hong Kong and China's mainland. Two minutes and a pulley system later and the goods would be on the other side in Hong Kong.

The flamboyant smuggling operation was usually carried out in the morning to elude the cops, and the nylon bags being sent over the river were stuffed to the brim with iPhone 4s and iPads. The police weren't fooled forever though, and apparently six smugglers have been arrested, and a bag full of 50 iPhone 4s and 50 iPads valued at around $46,500 was taken, too.

Smuggling activity across the Sha Tau Kok has been rampant for quite some time. A 2004 report from Hong Kong's Customs Service lends some insight into the illicit cross-border trade, which also includes diamonds (the gems carry a 4% import duty that smugglers seek to avoid), humans (a reverse operation, in which sex workers from the Mainland sneak into Hong Kong to conduct business in relative freedom), and, naturally, drugs:

The duty gradient between Hong Kong and the Mainland is probably the main reason that spurs smuggling activities. Electrical appliances, computers and related accessories, mobile phones, vehicles and vehicle parts, marked oil, edible oil and optical discs are hot items which smugglers favour sneaking into the huge market on the Mainland side. On the other hand, cigarettes, illicit fuel, pirated optical discs, counterfeit goods and chilled or frozen meat are popular items in the black market in Hong Kong. The very busy boundary crossing points and ports provide an opportune environment that has been taken advantage of by smugglers. They invariably use cross-boundary container trucks, lorries, river trade vessels and fishing boats to sneak contraband or prohibited goods across the well renowned busy boundary.

Oh, um...and crossbows.

Enterprising folks have actually used similar methods to sneak electronics -- particularly mobile phones -- across American borders of a different kind: prison walls.

The devices are hidden inside footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls, then thrown by accomplices over perimeter walls into recreation yards, and one prison telecom company noted in its quarterly newsletter that phones are being, wait for it...shot over prison fences with bazookas.

An American expat now living in Shenzhen put quite the fine point on the area's smuggling trade in a recent blog post titled: "Wow, if the plates weren't from Kazakhstan, I would have sworn this was Shenzhen":

It likely won't be long (it almost goes without saying, really) before an enterprising auto dealer figures out how to get a Mazda across the Sha Tau Kok using a Barnett Quad 400.
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