Smugglers Used Drones to Move $80 Million Worth of iPhones in China

Chinese customs officials in Hong Kong and Shenzhen province closed in on a band of criminals who were allegedly using drones in a bid to smuggle thousands of refurbished iPhone models, according to a Reuters report.

The Legal Daily reports that the highly-calculated operation’s value hovered somewhere around 500 million yuan ($79.8 million) worth of refurbished iPhones.

Notably, “It’s the first case found in China that drones were being used in cross-border smuggling crimes,” The Legal Daily reported, citing comments made by Hong Kong and Shenzhen customs officials during a news conference held last last week.

The smugglers allegedly succeeded undetected in their efforts for so long, by operating their drones primarily during the wee hours of the night.

And given the advanced nature of their dealings, the criminals apparently needed “only seconds” to transport “small bags” — each of which contained plus or minus 10 iPhones apiece — between point A (Hong Kong) and point B (Shenzhen).

“The gang could smuggle as many as 15,000 phones across the border in one night.”

In response to this operation’s crackdown, The Legal Daily cited comments from Shenzhen officials who noted that (in the future) they will more closely be monitoring these types of advanced smuggling operations (those employing high-tech devices like drones).

Officials hope to enhance their own capabilities using “drones and high-resolution monitors” in a bid to more easily detect smuggling activity.

Be sure to check out some of the other iPhone theft and smuggling attempts which have surfaced in recent years:

  • Multiple thieves who intercepted a UPS truck and stole $370k in iPhone X devices.
  • The Shenzhen, China-based woman who attempted smuggling over 100 iPhone by hiding them under her clothes.
  • The gang of Chinese thieves who allegedly tried smuggling as many as 470 iPhones between Oregon and Hong Kong.

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