37 caught for storing, selling contraband cigarettes in flats over nine months of 2014

Contraband cigarettes stored in drawers in a HDB flat. 37 people were caught for storing and selling these duty-unpaid cigarettes to neighbourhood residents in the first nine months of this year. -- PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Contraband cigarettes stored in drawers in a HDB flat. 37 people were caught for storing and selling these duty-unpaid cigarettes to neighbourhood residents in the first nine months of this year. -- PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

SINGAPORE - In the first nine months of this year, 37 people were caught for storing contraband cigarettes in their HDB flats and selling these duty-unpaid cigarettes to neighbourhood residents.

Singapore Customs has since stepped up its enforcement efforts in the HDB heartlands to clamp down on such illegal activities, it said in a statement released Tuesday.

During a raid along Corporation Drive last month, enforcement officers recovered 660 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes and arrested the flat-owner, 51-year-old Sujono Bin Kassan.

Investigations revealed that the Singaporean had been selling cigarettes worth some $7,000 in unpaid duty and Goods and Services taxes to residents in his neighbourhood. Sujono was sentenced last Thursday to three months' imprisonment and fined $3,000.

"Singapore Customs will not let up on our enforcement efforts in HDB estates," said Mr Lim Guan Cheong, head of Suppression and Community Engagement at Singapore Customs. "We urge members of the public to contact Singapore Customs if they come across illegal cigarette activities in their housing estate. By doing so, they can help to keep their neighbourhood free of such illegal activities."

Offenders caught buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, possessing or dealing with duty unpaid goods are liable to a fine of up to 40 times the amount of duty evaded, and/or face a maximum of six years in prison.

The minimum court fines for first-time and repeat offenders of tobacco-related offences are $2,000 and $4,000 respectively. Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will also face mandatory imprisonment.