Twenty-five drivers lured by online advertisements to smuggle duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore, who got caught in 2018, were sentenced by the State Courts to imprisonment terms of between 10 weeks and six months.
The Singapore Customs (SC) noted in a press release on Thursday (7 February) that the vehicles, which included cars and vans with modified compartments, used to smuggle the duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore were seized
The online advertisements on social media platforms such as Facebook and WeChat typically offer a payment ranging between $100 and $600 for every smuggling trip into Singapore.
In a recent case, Singaporean Law Hwa Peng, 45, was sentenced by the State Courts on 21 January 2019 to 20 weeks’ imprisonment for smuggling duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore.
SC said that Law came across a Facebook advertisement offering a high payment for drivers. He responded to the advertisement and was offered $400 for every trip to smuggle dutyunpaid cigarettes from Malaysia into Singapore. Law accepted the offer and he was provided a car, which he drove into Malaysia for duty-unpaid cigarettes to be loaded into various modified compartments of the vehicle.
Law attempted to drive the car into Singapore on 16 November 2018 but he was arrested at the Woodlands Checkpoint. A total of 144 cartons and 1,143 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes were found in the car. The duty-unpaid cigarettes and the car were seized. The duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to about $22,050 and $1,610 respectively.
In another case, a 25-year-old Malaysian, Ku Kai Chien, responded to a Facebook post advertising for drivers, and he was engaged to drive his own van into Malaysia for the syndicate to load duty-unpaid cigarettes onto the vehicle. He was asked to drive the van back to Singapore and if he succeeded in smuggling the cigarettes, he would be paid $400.
However, Ku was arrested at the Tuas Checkpoint on 21 March 2018. A total of 201 cartons and 790 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes were found concealed in various modified compartments of the van. The duty-unpaid cigarettes and the van were seized. The duty and GST evaded amounted to about $23,910 and $1,750 respectively.
Ku was sentenced by the State Courts on 9 July 2018 to six months’ imprisonment for smuggling duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore.
“Drivers who are hoping to make easy and quick money from the syndicates by smuggling duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore should think twice. They will end up paying a higher price when they are caught,” said Assistant Director-General (Intelligence & Investigation) Yeo Sew Meng.
“We strongly advise the public not to fall prey to such online advertisements. We will take firm actions against those who respond to these advertisements to smuggle duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore.”
Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act. Offenders can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded and/or jailed for up to six years. Vehicles used in the commission of such offences are also liable to be forfeited.