Chip shortage sees people cling-filming CPUs to their bodies, and millions of dollars’ worth of components seized

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Smuggling PC components over the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge

(Image credit: Wikipedia)

In a recent trend, border smugglers have turned from their usual tricks of smuggling mobile phones, and trained their eyes on PC parts. In fact, long-haul drivers have even been spotted strapping CPUs to their bodies, in order to smuggle them across borders. This is the level of desperation reached as chip shortages continue to be a feature of the contemporary industry.

In one instance, the Customs Department of Hong Kong had intercepted two drivers crossing the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, on Jun 16. The driver and co-driver had been acting rather suspiciously, and were soon found to be literally up to their elbows in tech.

The two were attempting to smuggle a total of 256 Intel Core i7 10700 and Core i9 10900K CPUs across the border, having strapped the high-end processors all over their bodies with cling-film, says HKPC.

Yet another attempt of CPU smuggling, thought to be related to the first, was thwarted just ten days later on the same crossing. This time, 52 Intel chips were spotted by the scanners, stuffed between the front seats. The total worth of the related instances is estimated at around $128,700.

And just a few days ago, Hong Kong Customs reported the seizure of a “batch of suspected smuggled goods at Lok Ma Chau Control Point.” The haul included more than 2,200 CPUs, over 1,000 RAM sticks, 630-ish smartphones… oh, and some makeup for good measure. All this gear, just muddled up in crates filled with random electronic parts. The worth of which was chalked up at around $4 million.

With PC part prices moving ever-skyward, and components being so difficult to get hold of, it’s likely this computer hardware smuggling trend will continue. But with a “maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years,” as noted by Hong Kong Customs, it’s no wonder these dudes looked so nervous.

I was a little disappointed to learn that neither of the more recent busts involved people strapping computer parts to their bodies, but you can’t have everything.

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. She can often be found admiring AI advancements, sighing over semiconductors, or gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. Her thirst for absurd Raspberry Pi projects will never be sated, and she will stop at nothing to spread internet safety awareness—down with the hackers.