SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man has been fined S$16 million and sentenced to 39 months in jail for offences related to dealing with duty-unpaid cigarettes, Singapore Customs said on Thursday (Jul 1).
Loh Hu Seong was extradited from Malaysia and taken into Singapore Customs’ custody on Jan 15 this year for his latest crimes.
As a repeat offender, Singapore Customs said the 58-year-old was sentenced to “enhanced punishment” for his current case.
Loh was sentenced by the State Courts on Jun 25 to 39 months’ jail and fined S$16,001,500 for dealing with duty-unpaid cigarettes under the Customs Act and for being a party to a criminal conspiracy to deal with duty-unpaid cigarettes under the Penal Code.
As Loh did not pay the fine, Singapore Customs said he will serve an additional 25 months and one day of imprisonment in default.
CONCEALED CIGARETTES IN EXCAVATOR PARTS
Investigations revealed that sometime in September 2018, Loh had conspired with an unknown man and a Malaysian man to smuggle duty-unpaid cigarettes from Malaysia to Singapore.
He was promised payments of between S$1,000 and S$2,000 for each successful shipment.
Loh and the Malaysian man then entered Singapore on Sep 14, 2018 to source for excavator parts to be used as cover loads to conceal duty-unpaid cigarettes.
At the same time, they also searched for warehouses and Loh eventually rented the industrial unit at Tuas South Street 1 for the dismantling and retrieval of the cigarettes. Investigations are ongoing for the Malaysian man, said Singapore Customs.
Singapore Customs subsequently conducted an operation Nov 7, 2018 at an industrial unit in Tuas South Street 1, which uncovered 5,428 cartons and 25 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes concealed in recycled excavator arms imported from Malaysia.
Singapore Customs added that five men were later arrested, and they have been dealt with separately.
The total duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to about S$514,900 and S$37,510 respectively.
For his role in this case, Loh was convicted of an offence under the Customs Act for dealing with uncustomed goods. Another charge relating to the GST evaded on the duty-unpaid cigarettes was taken into consideration during sentencing.
Investigations also revealed that between September and October 2018, Loh engaged in a criminal conspiracy with a Singaporean man.
Loh purchased excavator arms from the Singaporean man and informed him that holes were needed in the excavator arms to conceal duty-unpaid cigarettes.
The Singaporean man then got a worker to cut holes in the excavator arms and placed brackets with screws at the corners to cover the concealed spaces.
For his role in this scheme, Loh was convicted of an offence under the Penal Code of engaging in a criminal conspiracy to deal with duty-unpaid cigarettes. Court proceedings against the Singaporean man are ongoing.
PREVIOUSLY CONVICTED IN 2016
Loh was previously convicted on Sep 6, 2016 and sentenced to 30 months’ jail for dealing with duty-unpaid cigarettes with the duty and GST amounting to about S$136,570 and S$13,740 respectively.
Singapore Customs’ assistant director-general (intelligence and investigation) Yeo Sew Meng said the jail sentence and fine serve as a reminder of the stiff penalties repeat offenders face.
“Singapore Customs will not let up in our efforts to clamp down on cigarette smuggling activities … Those who are contemplating illegal cigarette activities should think carefully about the consequences when they are caught,” he added.
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.
Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will also face mandatory imprisonment.