Eleven criminal gangs have been caught in the case, which is estimated to have the value of RMB 6.091 billion (US$979 million), said Chinese Customs officers.

According to the website ChinaLeather.org the operation was led by the anti-smuggling Bureau of the General Administration of Customs, with 11 Customs agencies (i.e. Guangdong Sub-administration of Customs, and Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Gongbei, Shantou, Jiangmen, Zhanjiang, Tianjing, Shijiazhuang, Zhenzhou and Hohhot Customs Districts), local public security authorities and other related government agencies as the supportive forces.

On July 25, 2013, following a tip-off officers from the Huangpu Customs District started to analyse import data of leather for the whole Customs district. After a thorough study, they found that the declared value of the “wet-blue goatskins” imported by a trading company in Shenzhen was much lower than the street value of the goods, indicating risk of under invoicing. The Customs administration was alerted by the findings. Shortly after, a group composing of senior customs officers was formed and started an investigation.

During the investigation, Customs officers noticed that a Hong Kong based logistics company, which under declared the value of the “wet-blue goatskins” that it had imported through Shatian port and “cow leather” imported through Guangyu quay of Laogang port.

Two months later, Customs officers made breakthroughs in the investigation: a Shenzhen company that was related to the Hong Kong one was discovered. A large leather smuggling ring that “attracted” lots of “clients” was discovered.

In the meantime, another Dongguan based business that smuggled in large quantities of goods by under invoicing was also found by Customs officers. The companies in Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Dongguan were connected via illegal relationships in the smuggling ring.

On November 18, 2013, Huangpu Customs District established a working group named “Iron Fist” to fight against leather smuggling. Between November 2013 and February 2014, officials identified information about the suspects and end users who participated in the smuggling operation. The smuggling gangs were active in Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan. The efforts made by Customs had paved the way for the final breakthrough in the case. At this point, after seven months of hard work, the customs officials took action.

Early morning on March 5, 2014, the covert operation made arrests in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen, Foshan, Shantou, Maoming, Jiangmen, Tianjin, Baoding and Hohhot. 98 arrests were made.

Operation codenamed “Green Wind” by Huangpu Customs District has so far cracked 35 criminal smuggling cases of agricultural products (including leather), with an estimated value of RMB 6.342 billion ($1 billion).