SINGAPORE - More packets of contraband cigarettes, and also vehicles involved in smuggling of contraband cigarettes, were seized last year, the Singapore Customs revealed in a statement today.
The authorities also successfully disrupted three contraband cigarette syndicates, and managed to seize over 57,000 packets of contraband cigarette packets from these operations.
In total, 3 million packets of contraband cigarettes was seized in 2014, a 3.4 per cent increase over the quantity seized the previous year and double the number from 2012.
The Customs also seized 243 vehicles that were involved in the smuggling of contraband cigarettes at the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints in 2014.
This is the largest number of vehicles seized since 2009. A total of 1.1 million packets of contraband cigarettes, valued at over $11 million, were recovered from these vehicles.
They were concealed in various modified compartments of the vehicles such as the floorboards, rooftop compartments, and fuel tanks.
In one of the cases, a 29-year-old Malaysian man, Jayamohan Mohan, was sentenced in court on Jun 5, 2014 to 18 months' jail for attempting to smuggle 11,900 packets of contraband cigarettes into Singapore via the Woodlands Checkpoint.
The cigarettes were hidden in a modified roof-top compartment of the bus he was driving. Court proceedings are currently ongoing for the forfeiture of the bus.
In another case, Koi Kah Wei, a 21-year-old who is also Malaysian, was caught for attempting to smuggle 1,048 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes in his vehicle at the Tuas Checkpoint.
He hid the cigarettes in the modified CNG and fuel tanks of the car. The duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to more than $8,900.
Investigations revealed that Koi could have been paid RM500 (S$189) if he succeeded in smuggling the cigarettes into Singapore. Koi was sentenced to three months' jail on Jun 18, 2014 by the State Courts. The car was also forfeited.
A total of 23,862 cigarette offenders were caught in 2014, a decrease from the 27,041 offenders caught in 2013.
The Singapore Customs said that the figures for the number of offenders remained high despite the drop, suggesting that there was still a strong demand for contraband cigarettes.
"We would like to advise those who may be tempted to smuggle contraband cigarettes not to do it as it is not worth it," said Mr David Foo, head of Special Investigation Branch.
Under the Customs Act and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act, offenders can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty evaded, and/or be jailed for up to six years.
The minimum court fine for first-time and repeat offenders of tobacco-related offences is $2,000 and $4,000 respectively. Repeat offenders who are caught with more than two kilograms of tobacco products will also face mandatory jail sentences.
Vehicles used in the commission of such offences are also liable to be forfeited.