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Smugglers busted sneaking tech into China

'Intel inside' a suspiciously baggy t-shirt gave the game away – as did a truckload of parts

International Talk Like a Pirate Day is still months away – circle September 19 on your calendar, me hearties! – but The Register has found news of technology smuggling in China that suggests a buccaneering approach to imports.

One incident, reported by Chinese media outlet MyDrivers, saw Chinese customs authorities notice a man wearing ill-fitting black clothing attempt to pass through Gongbei Port – the entry point from Macau to China.

Macau is a former Portuguese colony that has since returned to Chinese control under the "One country, two systems" scheme that also governs Hong Kong. Travel from Hong Kong to Macau is easy, and then it's possible to walk through Gongbei port.

Customs authorities asked the man in black to explain his appearance, and found he had wrapped 239 CPUs around his abdomen and legs.

MyDrivers identified the CPUs as 13th-gen Intel Core i5s, model i5-13400F. That's a ten-core 2.5GHz machine with half a dozen performance cores, plus four efficiency core trundlers, aimed at desktop computers.

Customs China photo of smuggler wearing Intel CPUs

Customs China's photo of a smuggler wearing Intel CPUs – Click to enlarge

The Chinese outlet, somewhat strangely, shared benchmark results for the chip.

The Register prefers to quantify the crime: China taxes most imports at 13 percent, and Intel lists the CPUs at $196 when sold in batches of at least 1,000. The importer was therefore trying to evade at least $6,000 in tax on the $46,800 worth of CPUs he strapped to his body.

The case apparently is under further investigation. The Register awaits with interest the man's defence: "Look, I was just mucking around with some tape, and some Core i5s, and the next thing you know I was crossing the border with a few dozen strapped to my body … "

Hong Kong's government yesterday reported a more extensive tech smuggling effort, involving the seizure of 508,000 items including CPUs, memory, hard disks, other components, and laptop computers.

The territory stopped a truck attempting to pass through the Man Kam To Control Point in the direction of China.

"Upon inspection, the batch of suspected smuggled electronic products and electronic parts were found concealed behind a batch of properly declared goods inside the container," Hong Kong authorities stated.

China is not exactly short of tech products – it's often referred to as the world's factory. Sanctions have made it harder for some products to cross the border into the Middle Kingdom and Macau has been identified as a route to evade those bans – a loophole China has previously encouraged.

Neither report suggests the smugglers were sanction-busters, so perhaps the not-quite-masterminds who managed to have themselves apprehended at the border were just small time crims, or mules. And, like many such folks, they found their best laid plans weren't good enough. ®

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