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2.9 million packets of contraband cigarettes seized by Singapore Customs last year

Screenshot of a conversation between a peddler and buyer of contraband cigarettes on the WeChat instant messaging platform. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Screenshot of a conversation between a peddler and buyer of contraband cigarettes on the WeChat instant messaging platform. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Screenshot of the instant messaging profile of a peddler selling contraband cigarettes on WeChat. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Screenshot of the instant messaging profile of a peddler selling contraband cigarettes on WeChat. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Contraband cigarettes stored in luggages, recovered in one of the operations. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Contraband cigarettes stored in luggages, recovered in one of the operations. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Duty-unpaid cigarettes seized from two operations against peddlers who used the WeChat instant messaging platform. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Duty-unpaid cigarettes seized from two operations against peddlers who used the WeChat instant messaging platform. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Singapore Customs seized 2.9 million packets of contraband cigarettes last year - almost double the 1.5 million packets confiscated in 2012, and about a million more than the 1.9 million packets recorded in the previous year. -- FILE PHOTO: SINGAPORE
Singapore Customs seized 2.9 million packets of contraband cigarettes last year - almost double the 1.5 million packets confiscated in 2012, and about a million more than the 1.9 million packets recorded in the previous year. -- FILE PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

Singapore Customs seized 2.9 million packets of contraband cigarettes last year - almost double the 1.5 million packets confiscated in 2012, and about a million more than the 1.9 million packets recorded in the previous year.

The suspects behind such offences have also been resorting to newer tactics, such as peddling illegal cigarettes through instant messaging platform WeChat, and smuggling contraband cigarettes into Singapore using luxury cars, said Singapore Customs in its annual statistics report out on Thursday.

Customs officers nabbed 15 suspects for attempting to smuggle contraband cigarettes in luxury cars, compared to just four arrested the year before. Eleven men and two women were also caught during eight operations conducted by Custom officers in 2013 for selling illegal cigarettes through WeChat. A total of 1,740 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes, worth more than $169,000 were seized during these operations. The total duty and tax evaded in these cases exceeded $137,000, said Singapore Customs.

Mr Lee Boon Chong, the senior assistant director-general of intelligence and investigation division at Singapore Customs, said during a media briefing on Thursday morning that the number of smokers caught for buying contraband cigarettes has continued to increase as well, with 6,400 buyers caught last year, compared to 5,977 in 2011. He added that it is important for the public to remain vigilant and report such activities to Singapore Customs.