Qimei Township, Penghu County, Taiwan. Photo: Google Maps

The Taiwan Coast Guard intercepted two fishing vessels in waters off the Penghu archipelago on Friday night, making several arrests and seizing NT$74 million (US$2.47 million) worth of illicit cigarettes.

A team of Coast Guard investigators from Kaohsiung and Penghu intercepted the boats and found 1,849 boxes of cigarettes, United Daily News reported on the weekend.

On one of the vessels, a 54-year-old Taiwanese fisherman surnamed Chen and four Filipino colleagues were arrested along with packages of illicit cigarettes that were carefully wrapped in waterproof bags.

According to the preliminary investigation, the boat had been deployed by a tobacco-smuggling cartel as the transition site for the loading and unloading of illicit cigarettes.

Chen, accused of violating the Tobacco and Alcohol Administration Act, told police that the boss behind the operation had assigned him to work with the four Filipinos on the vessel three months ago, and they relied on food supplies given by other fishing boats.

On the second boat, four people were arrested: the Taiwanese captain, two Taiwanese fishermen and one Vietnamese, UDN reported.

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