Cigarette smuggler jailed for five years

Singaporean played key role in syndicate, was nabbed after two years on the run

A key member of a cigarette smuggling syndicate was sentenced to five years in jail on Tuesday for his involvement in contraband cigarette activities.

Singapore Customs said in a statement yesterday that Ibrahim Saleh, 45, a Singaporean, had been on the run for about two years before being caught.

He pleaded guilty to two charges related to cigarette smuggling. Another two similar charges were taken into consideration in the sentencing.

The statement said that, in 2013, Ibrahim and four suspects were arrested by Singapore Customs officers in a warehouse in Kallang Avenue for their role in a case involving 14,400 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes. The duty and goods and services tax (GST) evaded amounted to over $1.3 million.

One of his accomplices was sentenced in 2013 to 32 months' jail, while another was fined $1,000.

The other two men were freed after investigations showed that they were not involved in the smuggling activity. But Ibrahim jumped bail, and a warrant of arrest was issued against him.

On June 9 this year, he was nabbed in Johor by Malaysian police and handed back to Singapore on the same day.

The next day, Singapore Customs officers raided a warehouse in Loyang Crescent and seized about 3,000 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes, which were hidden in modified bed headboards imported from Batam.

The duty and GST involved amounted to more than $309,000.

Five Singaporean men and one Indonesian man were sentenced to between 26 months and 33 months in jail for their roles in this case, which was coordinated by Ibrahim in Batam.

Ibrahim was sentenced to 26 months and 34 months in jail for his role in the two cases in 2013 and this year respectively. The sentences will run consecutively.

Singapore Customs' Assistant Director-general for Intelligence and Investigation Yeo Sew Meng said in the statement: "Such smuggling activities undermine the integrity of Singapore's trading system. We will spare no effort in hunting down criminals on the run and going after syndicates which attempt to smuggle cigarettes into Singapore."

Those with information on smuggling activities or evasion of customs duty or GST can contact the Singapore Customs on 1800- 233-0000 or e-mail customs_ intelligence@customs.gov.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Cigarette smuggler jailed for five years'. Print Edition | Subscribe