China foiled criminals seeking to smuggle nearly 1 million tonnes of refined oil worth RMB 5 billion ($770 million), with officials seizing 11 ships and detaining 171 suspects in a sprawling swoop on Tuesday, customs authorities said, reported Reuters.
The operation, which saw customs officers from the port city of Ningbo join forces with local law enforcement and maritime police, spanned eight Chinese regions, including the coastal provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Shandong and Fujian, the General Administration of Customs said in a statement.
A total of 14 gangs were busted on Tuesday, the agency added. It was not immediately clear if the gangs were trying to smuggle the oil into or out of the country.
Such smuggling disrupts the retail fuel market, brings serious safety hazards and causes pollution, it said, adding that smuggled refined oil was of inferior quality and had a sulphur content that greatly exceeded stipulated limits.