HK CUSTOMS ARRESTED COUPLE FOR SELLING IMPORTED GIN AS "HONG KONG'S FIRST GIN"
By Susan Lewis
Source: Hong Kong Distillery/Facebook
A New Zealand man and his girlfriend have been arrested by Hong Kong customs for selling an imported gin as “the first ever gin made in Hong Kong”.
Branded as Handover Gin and claimed to be "small batch distilled rare dry gin", a 750ml bottle of the product has been sold for HKD480 (USD61) , about four times the imported price from New Zealand.
Customs and Excise Assistant Superintendent Joy Wong Sek-yan said in a press conference that the company, called Hong Kong Distillery, posted pictures online of a still in their premise to mislead consumers that the gin was crafted locally.
The still was seized along with 1,332 bottles of gin in the company address, which was used as a packaging and distribution centre and where the two suspects were arrested yesterday.
“We believe the still had not been used because dust can be found on the machine. They used this as a gimmick to attract buyers who are in favour of locally crafted liquor,” said Wong.
Printing misleading information on product labels is an offence against Trade Descriptions Ordinance, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a HKD500,000 fine.
The customs authority began investigating the company after receiving a tip-off last month.
Officers intercepted a shipment of 1,557 bottles of unlabelled gin imported by the company from New Zealand last Thursday.
Failing to put label on a product is in violation of the Dutiable Commodities Ordinance with a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a HKD500,000 fine.
Customs officers raided the company’s office yesterday and arrested the company director, a 40-year-old man who holds a New Zealand passport and a Hong Kong identity card, and his 29-year-old girlfriend.
The haul, including the still, is believed to worth HKD1.48 million.
Wong said she believed the company had been in operation for six months and some bottles of gin had been sold. Customs officers have crawled back 157 bottles from the market and will continue the operation.
She added that the company does not have any distillery licence, and there are only two companies licensed to make gin in Hong Kong.
According to earlier reports in some local lifestyle magazines, owner of Hong Kong Distillery is New Zealander Steven Newton.
Newton claimed in some reports that he fought with local red tape for four years and finally acquired all the necessary licences to produce the Handover Gin locally, and claimed that it is “the first true Hong Kong gin”.
Said to be twice silver medal winner at Cathay Pacific International Wine and Spirit Competition, the Handover Gin was claimed to have been infused with 11 organic botanicals, including ginseng, bitter orange, Chinese cinnamon and horny goat weed.
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