Former customs officer jailed for fraudulently obtaining GST refunds at Changi Airport

Former customs officer jailed for fraudulently obtaining GST refunds at Changi Airport

Changi International Airport transit hall with passengers
File photo of passengers in the transit hall of Changi Airport. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: A former customs officer has been sentenced to 15 months' jail for fraudulently obtaining Goods and Services Tax (GST) refunds when she was deployed at Changi Airport.

Pang Yeow Biah, 61, pleaded guilty to 10 charges which relate to fraudulent refunds amounting to about S$8,300, said Singapore Customs, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) and the police in a joint news release on Friday (Apr 20).

The offences were committed between 2012 and 2014. As a customs officer at a GST refund inspection counter at Changi Airport, Pang’s job was to process claims made by tourists leaving Singapore.

However, Pang would reject some of the tourists’ claims while keeping the supporting documents.

“When the opportunity arose, she would take the details of these ‘rejected’ GST refund claims and use the eTRS system to electronically process the GST refunds into her own credit cards or credit cards that were under her control,” said the authorities.

According to court documents, Pang had not only used her own computer to process the fraudulent refunds, she also used the eTRS self-help kiosks as well as the computers of four other customs officers when they were busy or away on their breaks.

The fraudulent refunds were credited to two credit cards that were registered in the name of her son's ex-girlfriend – one was a supplementary card which Pang, the principal card holder, held on to. The other was a Malaysian-based card used by the ex-girlfriend.

Pang then used the money to offset her own credit card expenses. She had also asked her son’s ex-girlfriend to buy air tickets on her behalf using the GST refunds which had been credited to her card.

Pang has since made full restitution. She was also ordered to pay a penalty of S$24,906.15, which is three times the amount of tax defrauded.

Said the authorities in their joint release: "Measures such as built-in system checks are in place to identify cases to be selected for further inspection. Through data analytics, IRAS and Singapore Customs are able to detect suspicious GST refund claims and fraudulent activities.”

For fraudulently obtaining GST refunds, Pang could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined up to S$10,000.

Source: CNA/na/(gs)