2 fined $31,000 for e-cigarette offences

An engineer and a property agent who imported and sold electronic cigarettes online were fined a total of $31,000 yesterday.

Francis Chue Kar Fatt, 33, was fined $16,000, while 32-year-old property agent Zhang Zhaoming, was fined $15,000 after they each pleaded guilty to 10 charges.

Two of Chue's charges were for obstructing an authorised officer by deleting the www.thaivape.com website and a PayPal account which housed the evidence to all the e-cigarette sales transactions .

Another four were for selling and importing e-cigarettes with Zhang.

Following online surveillance of online electronic cigarette peddlers, Health Sciences Authority officers raided the Woodlands home of Chue and his wife, Ms Rattikan Khamtong, a 29-year-old Thai national, on Jan 7, 2013, for allegedly offering e-cigarettes for sale on the website.

They seized e-cigarettes, related peripherals and SingPost receipts.

Investigations showed that Ms Khamtong instructed her husband to delete the website while officers were conducting the search. She gave him her username and password and he did it from his office laptop at his office at Land Transport Authority at Sin Ming Drive.

On July 18, 2013, when HSA officers raided Zhang's home in Sengkang, Chue deleted the PayPal account which contained e-cigarette sales transactions from the website.

Investigations showed that despite knowing it was an offence to deal in e-cigarettes, Zhang was still keen on the business. He started the e-cigarette online business with Chue's help sometime in June. They agreed on the terms of the business and a profit-sharing arrangement.

The court heard that the goods were ordered online and payments made via Zhang's credit card. The e-cigarettes were sold to customers at between $55 and $110 a set.

A warrant for the arrest of Ms Khamtong was issued last month.

Both men could have been fined up to $5,000 on each charge of selling or importing. For obstruction, Chue could have been fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months per charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2015, with the headline '2 fined $31,000 for e-cigarette offences'. Print Edition | Subscribe