SINGAPORE: To earn money on the side, more foreign workers are getting involved in contraband cigarette activities, the Singapore Customs said in a media release on Thursday (Jan 12).
In the second half of last year, 12 foreign workers were caught, compared to nine in the first half of 2016.
Responding to queries from Channel NewsAsia, a Singapore Customs spokesman said the agency started monitoring the trend in mid-2015.
"Over the past 18 months, 30 foreign workers have been arrested for getting involved in duty-unpaid cigarette activities to earn money on the side,” the spokesman added.
These foreign workers typically post advertisements on social media platforms such as Shi Cheng BBS (狮城BBS) and WeChat to look for work during their free time, and are hired by illegal cigarette syndicates to deliver duty-unpaid cigarettes, Singapore Customs said.
In one such case involving a male Chinese national who was arrested on Dec 9 last year, the 36-year-old had posted an advertisement on social media platform QQ looking for work. He was then hired by an unknown person to take delivery of a consignment containing contraband cigarettes hidden in display stands at a company building in Tuas.
A total of 2,409 cartons of cigarettes were seized and the duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to about S$186,940 and S$18,820 respectively.
“Foreign workers looking to earn extra money on the side through illicit activities should be fully aware of the consequences,” said Singapore Customs’ assistant director-general for intelligence and investigation Yeo Sew Meng.
“If they are caught for being involved in such illegal activities, they will be prosecuted and their work pass will be revoked, and they will be repatriated after they have fulfilled their sentence.”
He also urged employers to monitor the use of company vehicles to prevent employees misusing them for illegal activities. Vehicles used in the commission of illegal activities may be forfeited, he said.
Those convicted for dealing with duty-unpaid goods can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded, jailed for up to six years, or both. Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will also face mandatory imprisonment, Singapore Customs said.