A raid of at least RMB300 million worth of reportedly smuggled e-juice was announced by GDToday on August 22.
The actual raid took place on August 8, according to a US-based e-juice exporter who asked to remain anonymous.
“There’s no imported e-liquid for the past two weeks (in China) until whenever this thing is over,” said the exporter, who described his employees being handcuffed and company computers seized.
According to GDToday, Gongbei Customs Office Leader Zhou Bin said four companies were raided by more than 320 police officers due to suspicions of e-liquid being illegally imported from the United States.
The exporter That’s spoke to claims the American exporters were unaware of any illegal activity, and theorized that the freight forwarders may have underpaid taxes.
The majority of vape juice sold in China is imported, and Zhou says that e-cigarette sales have increased by over 300 percent annually in recent years.
China is one of the few countries in Asia where vaping is still unregulated.
Following the raid, a reported 20 people have been detained and authorities continue to investigate.
With vaping laws tightening throughout Asia, and many countries already banning the products outright, similar raids have taken place elsewhere on the continent.
In 2015, Straits Times reported that Malaysian authorities raided 300 e-cigarette stores and seized RMB156,000 worth of inventory, despite vaping being legal in most areas of the country.
A 2016 raid by authorities in Singapore, where e-cigarettes are illegal, seized over 1,000 vaping products valued at approximately RMB137,000.
In another case just days ago, Bangkok Post reported that Thai police brought down an online e-cigarette ring after raiding a warehouse and seizing about RMB600,000 in inventory. Vaping is illegal in Thailand.
Additional reporting by Sky Gidge.