SINGAPORE: A 41-year-old Indian national was sentenced to 18 months' jail and a penalty of S$66,981 for Goods and Services Tax (GST) tourist refund fraud, corruption and money laundering on Thursday (Jun 18).
Muthuvel Sankar was charged in court on Jun 4 with five counts of corruption involving about S$2,800, six counts of GST evasion amounting to S$29,800 and one amalgamated charge of removing the criminal benefits from Singapore amounting to S$27,895.
Through interviews done with other subjects investigated in an earlier case in 2014, the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) identified Sankar as a subject of interest.
"Sankar was not in Singapore then, but was swiftly apprehended by CPIB when he attempted to re-enter Singapore in October 2019," CPIB, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) and the police said in a joint press release on Thursday.
Subsequent investigations by CPIB, IRAS and the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the police uncovered the various offences committed by Sankar.
An IRAS probe revealed that he had made at least six fraudulent tourist refund claims under the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS).
"Sankar was not entitled to the tourist refunds as the jewellery purchases were not made by him, but by other persons during the time when Sankar was not in Singapore," the authorities said.
However, he proceeded to make tourist refund claims for himself by using the eTRS tickets he got, and also made false statements in his claim that he was eligible for such refunds.
Sankar falsely obtained tourist refunds of at least S$29,800, which are offences under the Goods and Services Tax Act.
CPIB investigations also revealed that Sankar had presented the eTRS tickets to Mohamed Yusof Abdul Rahman, a customs officer with Singapore Customs at the time of the offences.
Yusof's duty was to approve GST tourist refund applications upon the necessary verification, and issue eTRS notification slips to tourists for making GST tourist refund claims at the airport.
Yusof would endorse these tickets without proper verification of the goods.
Sankar gave or conspired to give about S$2,800 to Yusof on five separate occasions between 2013 and 2014 as a reward for endorsing the eTRS tickets. On two of these occasions, the act was made through a third-party on behalf of an acquaintance.
These are offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
According to the authorities, Yusof is no longer employed by Singapore Customs.
Investigations by CAD also revealed that Sankar removed a total of at least S$27,895 out of Singapore, during the same period when he departed Singapore shortly for India after applying for and receiving the GST refunds.
"Singapore adopts a zero tolerance approach towards corruption, tax fraud and other criminal activities.
The authorities will not hesitate to take action against any individuals and parties who commit these offences. They can expect to face the full brunt of the law," the authorities said.