Smugglers cling-film CPUs to their bodies due to chip shortage

£2.9 million worth of computer parts seized

The ongoing chip shortage is having a huge effect on PC gamers, and now it’s proving to be a lucrative side hustle for smugglers.

Although smugglers usually focus on mobile phones, it looks as though CPUs and other PC components are currently a far more lucrative prospect. And according to a Hong Kong Customs report (via PCGamer), authorities recently seized upon computer parts worth around £2.9 million.

The report found a “batch of suspected smuggled goods at Lok Ma Chau Control Point.” This apparently included over 2,200 CPUs, 1,000 RAM sticks and around 630 smartphones. There was even some makeup thrown in, too.

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Authorities estimate it was worth around £2.9 million ($4 million) and was found mixed into crates of other assorted computer parts.

During another incident, Hong Kong Customs found two drivers crossing the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, on June 16 who had strapped CPUs all over their bodies. The pair were seen acting suspiciously and when authorities searched them, they found a total of 256 Intel Core i7 10700 and Core i9 10900K CPUs cling-filmed to their bodies. The aim – to smuggle these components across the border.

Just 10 days later, another attempted CPU smuggling occurred at the same crossing. Thought to be connected to the earlier incident, 52 Intel chips were picked up by customs scanners which were stuffed between the front seats of a vehicle. These two incidents are thought to have been worth around £93,480 ($128,700).

As the Silicon Valley chip shortage continues, it looks as though these types of incidents will only be on the up. After all, PC hobbyists will likely pay top dollar for the latest graphic cards and chipsets.

But smuggling is certainly not for the faint-hearted – there’s a maximum fine of $2 million and imprisonment for seven years. No wonder they looked a bit nervous.

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In more PC news – though less crime-related – fans are using Windows 11 to run PC games on mobile. 

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