SINGAPORE: Twenty-five drivers were caught trying to smuggle duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore in 2018 - and they were lured by online advertisements.
Providing details on some of the cases, the Singapore Customs said in a news release on Thursday (Feb 7), that the drivers were sentenced by the State Courts to jail terms ranging between 10 weeks and six months.
Vehicles such as cars and vans with modified compartments that were used to smuggle the cigarettes were also seized.
The advertisements, posted on social media platforms such as Facebook and WeChat, typically offer payments between S$100 and S$600 for every smuggling trip into Singapore.
A recent case highlighted by Singapore Customs involved 45-year-old Singaporean Law Hwa Peng, who was sentenced to 20 weeks’ jail on Jan 21 for one such trip.
Law responded to a post he came across on Facebook and was offered S$400 for every trip to carry duty-unpaid cigarettes from Malaysia into Singapore.
He accepted the offer and was provided a car, which he drove into Malaysia. There, duty-unpaid cigarettes were loaded into various modified compartments of the vehicle. Law was arrested at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Nov 16 last year, after attempting to drive the car into Singapore.
The car was seized, along with a total of 144 cartons and 1,143 packets of cigarettes. According to Singapore Customs, the total duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to about S$22,050 and S$1,610 respectively.
Another case involved Malaysian Ku Kai Chen, 25, who also responded to a Facebook post.
He was engaged to drive his own van into Malaysia for the syndicate to load duty-unpaid cigarettes into the vehicle, then asked to drive it back to Singapore. He was promised S$400 if he succeeded in smuggling them into the country.
Ku was arrested on Mar 21 last year at the Tuas Checkpoint, where a total of 201 cartons and 709 packets of cigarettes were found in modified compartments of his van. The amount of tax evaded was about S$23,910 and S$1,750 respectively.
Both the cigarettes and the van were seized. Ku was subsequently sentenced to six months’ jail on Jul 9.
Singapore Customs assistant director-general (Intelligence & Investigation) Yeo Sew Meng said: “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.
“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," Singapore Customs said.
Members of public with information on smuggling activities or evasion of Customs duty or GST can call the Singapore Customs hotline on 1800-2330000, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use Customs@SG mobile app to report such activities.