SINGAPORE: More than 17,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized from a Yishun warehouse last week, the largest haul netted in a single operation this year.
Four men were charged on Friday (May 29) in relation to the chase, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and Singapore Customs said in a joint media release on Monday.
ICA officers had conducted further checks on a prime mover with an attached container at the Pasir Panjang Scanning Station at about noon last Wednesday. The officers became suspicious when they noticed "anomalies" in the scanned images of the consignment.
“During the course of checks, ICA officers uncovered duty-unpaid cigarettes concealed inside metal cabinets. The case was handed over to Singapore Customs for further investigation,” said the media release.
Singapore Customs officers subsequently conducted an operation at an industrial building at Yishun Street 23 and observed a man using a forklift to remove metal cabinets from the container.
At the same time, two other men were seen removing carton boxes containing duty-unpaid cigarettes from 16 metal cabinets and loading the carton boxes back into the container.
The three men were arrested by Singapore Customs officers, who seized 17,250 cartons of contraband cigarettes.
The total duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) amounted to about S$1.47 million and S$119,270 respectively.
Another 35-year-old man was later arrested on the same day for his involvement in the case. The four men were charged and court proceedings are ongoing.
Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, possessing or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act, the authorities said.
Those found guilty of doing so can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded, jailed for up to six years, or both.
"The same methods of concealment used by contraband smugglers may be used by terrorists to smuggle arms and explosives to carry out attacks in Singapore," the authorities said.
"ICA will continue to conduct security checks on passengers, cargo and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands across our borders."
Members of public with information on smuggling activities or evasion of Customs duty or GST can call the Singapore Customs hotline at 1800-2330000, or reach them via email or the Customs@SG mobile app.