Chinese customs officers have arrested smugglers who attempted to drop millions of dollars worth of iPhones from drones into China.
Twenty-six suspects were arrested in China recently after they tried to use drones to fly two 660-foot cables from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, according to Reuters. Those cables were going to be used to lift iPhones worth 500 million yuan ($79.6 million) to the mainland, where they could be sold via the black market for a hefty profit, according to the report. A local Chinese report from the Legal Daily said it was the first time drones were employed to smuggle phones.
The operation was set to go off at night, where smugglers would pack small bags with approximately 10 iPhones and attach them to the drones. Those drones would then fly from Hong Kong to the mainland in just a matter of seconds. According to Reuters, the smugglers had the ability to transport up to 15,000 iPhones each night.
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Smuggling of high-value products—like iPhones, jewelry, and luxury products—is nothing new in China. In fact, the government has been working hard to crackdown on the practice and do a better job of breaking up what has become an increasingly powerful black market.
Smuggling gangs often steal devices or buy them at a deeply reduced rate and sell them for a higher price in China. They’re careful, however, to keep their prices below the going rate for those who purchase products legitimately. The result is a profitable business for smugglers and an opportunity for Chinese consumers to get authentic goods at a cheaper price.
Despite breaking up the drone attempt, Shenzhen officials warned that smuggling would continue. According to Reuters, the customs officers are planning to use several types of equipment to thwart other attempts by the smugglers.