Jail for man who blinded Customs officer during contraband bust

Jail for man who blinded Customs officer during contraband bust

A delivery driver who hit a Customs car and blinded an officer in one eye while trying to escape with 1,200 cartons of illegal cigarettes was yesterday jailed for 30 months.

Zaini Sidin, 38, was also banned from driving for five years after pleading guilty.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Asran Samad highlighted several aggravating factors, including the large amount of contraband cigarettes, which had an unpaid excise duty of $109,711.

The victim's injuries were serious. Senior Customs officer Hafiz Hashim, who suffered facial injuries, has only 5 per cent vision in his right eye. The 30-year-old was given almost two months of medical leave. Mr Asran said, as a public officer, Mr Hafiz deserved the full protection of the law.

The incident occurred after Zaini received a call from an unidentified man who said he was "Bong's" friend last Aug 3.

The man wanted him to drive a van from a carpark at West Coast Park to Pandan Road for a delivery before driving back.

Zaini managed to find the van at about 2am on Aug 4 and retrieved the key from the top of the front tyre. He drove the van to the end of Pandan Road and entered through the main gate, which had been left ajar, of a warehouse.

As the place was dark, he turned on his headlights again and drove farther into the compound towards an open shed. Someone then told him to turn off his headlights before parking.

Mr Asran said several people then loaded boxes onto the van. It was then that Zaini realised something illegal was taking place.

About 20 minutes later, he got back into the van and realised it was being loaded with duty-unpaid cigarettes.

Meanwhile, two Customs vehicles formed a road block at the main gate to stop him from leaving. Officers shouted to him to stop but Zaini did not slow down.

Instead, he side-swiped his van onto the rear door of one car before hitting the vehicle Mr Hafiz was in. The second car's two front airbags were deployed and it caught fire. Several officers extinguished the fire and rushed to the victim's aid.

Two accomplices were arrested and a third managed to escape.

This article was published on May 7 in The Straits Times.

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