Nine suspects have been detained in Yancheng, East China's Jiangsu Province for smuggling sugar over the weekend after border police there noticed that the Chinese characters on the prow of the cargo ship, which was loaded with tons of sugar, were printed in a reverse order, news website 163.com reported on Tuesday.
The two Chinese characters, Da Qing, were not only newly sprayed onto the ship's prow, but were also painted in the opposite direction - Qing Da, which immediately sparked concern with police officers on Thursday night, when the cargo ship docked at a port in Yancheng, said the report.
After reporting the incident to senior officials and after back-up arrived, border police quickly inspected the vessel on board. They found that the cargo vessel was filled with 25,000 bags of sugar produced outside China, weighing 1,300 tons and valued at nearly 10 million yuan ($1.53 million).
However, the ship's captain was unable to provide any clearing documents signed by customs, confirming it as a smuggling case.
"The crew then confessed that they had deliberately sprayed the two Chinese characters onto the ship to disguise it as a Chinese one, thinking that it would be more convenient to offload cargos in such a way," police officers were quoted as saying in the report.
But due to unfamiliarity with the Chinese language, as most the ship employees are as they are predominantly Indonesian, the foreign smugglers therefore printed a mistranslation onto the ship, printing Da Qing backward, the police noted, a failed attempt at disguise.
The ship's real name is "Binhe 178", a Panama-registered ship, according to the report.
Before docking at the port in Yancheng on Thursday night, crew members loaded tons of Thai-produced sugar at sea areas between China and South Korea and fueled the ship at Jeju Island, South Korea.
Nine crew members of the ship have been detained for further investigation with the case being submitted to customs in Yancheng on Saturday, the report noted.