3 million packets of contraband cigarettes seized in 2014

Men selling contraband cigarettes at a street in Geylang. -- PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
Men selling contraband cigarettes at a street in Geylang. -- PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Authorities here seized three million packets of contraband cigarettes last year, a 3.4 per cent increase from the year before and twice that of 2012.

According to annual statistics released by Singapore Customs on Wednesday, three contraband cigarette syndicates were discovered and disrupted last year. More than 57,000 packets of contraband cigarettes were seized from these operators alone.

The largest single seizure of 2014 was in January when 149,990 packets were found concealed in specially constructed hollow spaces beneath wooden boards.

Several cases of contraband cigarette smuggling were via vehicles over the land checkpoints at Woodlands and Tuas. Customs seized a total of 243 vehicles involved, the largest number in five years.

A total of 1.1 million packets of cigarettes, valued at over $11 million, were recovered from these vehicles, concealed in modified compartments such as in the floorboards and fuel tanks.

In one instance, a 21-year-old Malaysian man, Koi Kah Wei, tried to smuggle 1,048 packets of cigarettes with unpaid taxes amounting to some $9,000. Investigations revealed that Koi stood to gain RM500 if he succeeded in his mission. After his arrest, he was sentenced to three months in jail and his car forfeited.

Offenders who breach the the Customs Act and Goods and Services Tax Act could face a fine of up to 40 times the amount of duty evaded, and/or be jailed for up to six years.