SINGAPORE - A total of four Chinese nationals - in three separate cases - have been sentenced for their involvement in contraband cigarette activities using the Chinese instant messaging platform WeChat.
In the first case, a 26-year-old man was sentenced on Wednesday (May 4) to five months' imprisonment for peddling contraband cigarettes via WeChat.
Singapore Customs said in a press statement today that Zhang Daolong was arrested by customs officers as he was leaving his rented room in an apartment in Lorong 28 Geylang on April 28.
More than 235 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized. The amount of duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded exceeded $20,110.
Zhang was one of the four Chinese nationals nabbed by Singapore Customs in the last seven weeks for peddling contraband cigarettes on WeChat.
In the second case, a married couple was sentenced on April 14 to 12 weeks imprisonment for their involvement in contraband cigarette activities.
Ma Feng, 32, and Zhang Qiuping, 33, had set up WeChat accounts to attract potential buyers for their contraband cigarettes.
Ma was in charge of liaising with contraband cigarette suppliers while his wife, Zhang, liaised with and delivered the contraband cigarettes to their buyers, said the Singapore Customs statement.
Zhang was arrested in Woodlands Avenue 6 on April 12 when she was delivering contraband cigarettes to buyers.
Her husband was arrested when custom officers raided the couple's rented room in an HDB flat in Woodlands Ring Road.
More than 67 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized in this operation. The amount of duty and GST evaded exceeded $5,720.
In the last case, Liu Huawen, 33, was sentenced on March 14 to three months' imprisonment and a fine of $9,200 or in default two months and two weeks' imprisonment.
Liu was arrested by Singapore Customs officers on March 11 when he was delivering contraband cigarettes in Jurong West Street 62. The officers then raided Liu's rented room in a housing flat nearby.
More than 94 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized in this operation. The amount of duty and GST evaded exceeded $8,050.
Investigations revealed that Liu had sourced for suppliers and buyers of contraband cigarettes via WeChat.
Mr Yeo Ban Meng, head of Suppression and Community Engagement, Singapore Customs, said: "We are keeping a close watch on such illegal activities on WeChat and other social media platforms."
"Offenders will be severely punished in accordance with the law," 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.
The minimum court fines for first-time and repeat offenders of tobacco-related offences are $2,000 and $4,000 respectively. Repeat offenders who are caught with more than two kilogrammes of tobacco products will also face mandatory jail sentences.
Mr Yeo said: "We urge members of the public to report to Singapore Customs any suspected contraband cigarette activities they come across on instant messaging platforms, and help us to stop such criminal activities from taking place in their neighbourhood."
Members of the public with information on smuggling activities or evasion of customs duty or GST can call the Singapore Customs hotline at 1800-2330000 or email the authority at email@example.com.