New smuggling tricks don't fool ICA

SINGAPORE - Smuggles may have new tricks to bring contraband into Singapore, such as using luxury cars to avoid suspicion, but the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) warned that it is not being fooled.

It has detected 46,300 cases in the first half of this year, a 17 per cent jump from 39,500 cases in the same period last year.

One method on the rise is the use of luxury vehicles in smuggling. Nine Singapore-registered luxury cars were snared in ICA's net this year for carrying illegal goods, such as duty-unpaid cigarettes and live animals.

Last year and 2011 saw just one such case each.

"Smugglers assume that high-end vehicles are less likely to be subjected to checks at the checkpoints," ICA said in its half-year report on Tuesday.

Smugglers have also taken to hiding cigarettes in bridges at the bottom of a car's body and in modified compartments within furniture on board tour buses.

Smuggling cigarettes in intermediate bulk containers (IBC), which are usually used to transport large quantities of fluid, has made a comeback, ICA added. This method was first discovered by the authorities in 2010.

Now smugglers have resorted to using IBCs labelled as containing latex to transport contraband through sea routes instead of across land.

This year, tobacco was also found in a vehicle's air filter, while a live sugar glider, a tiny marsupial which fits into the palm of a hand, was hidden in a toothpaste box.

The ICA said it was able to uncover more cases this year because of its rigorous border and inland checks, and the better detection skills of its officers.

"The same method of concealment could also similarly be employed by terrorists to smuggle dangerous materials such as weapons or explosives into Singapore," it said in its report.

"Therefore, ICA takes a serious view on any smuggling attempt and appropriate actions will be taken against the smugglers."

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