Channel NewsAsia

Malaysian trio jailed for smuggling contraband cigarettes

Ching Siong Huat, 47, had engaged the services of a mother and her 18-year-old daughter to minimise suspicion as they crossed the Woodlands Checkpoint.

SINGAPORE: A Malaysian man who attempted to drive into Singapore with contraband cigarettes hidden in his car was sentenced to seven months' jail on 19 August. Both his female passengers, who were also involved in the smuggling attempt, were each sentenced to six months' jail.

The trio - 47-year-old Ching Siong Huat, Joo Mei Suan, 43, and her 18-year-old daughter, Ler Kia Ling - were arrested on Aug 15 by Singapore Customs officers. A total of 298 cartons and 210 packets of contraband cigarettes were found hidden in various modified compartments of their car, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Singapore Customs said in a joint statement.

The contraband cigarettes were worth more than S$34,000, while duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded exceeded S$27,100. Singapore Customs officers also seized the Malaysian-registered car which they had attempted to drive through the Woodlands Checkpoint.

According to the authorities, investigations revealed that Ching was engaged to drive the car, and recruited Joo and Ler to act as "passengers" as he assumed this would minimise suspicion and avoid detection by ICA officers.

Anyone convicted of buying, selling, conveying, storing or possessing duty-unpaid goods 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, the authorities said.

Said Mr David Foo, Head of Special Investigation Branch: "Singapore Customs takes a serious view of cross-border smuggling of contraband cigarettes. We will continue to clamp down on such illegal activities and bring the offenders to justice. Those who are caught smuggling contraband cigarettes will be arrested and their vehicles will be seized.”

Singapore Customs has seized 134 vehicles used to smuggle contraband cigarettes into Singapore in the first seven months of this year. Last year, 146 vehicles were seized.