SINGAPORE - Five Indian nationals who allegedly tried to claim tax refunds totalling $167,253 for jewellery they did not purchase were arrested by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras).
The five were arrested on Wednesday (Feb 1) after a joint operation by Iras and Singapore Customs on May 27 last year caught them making fraudulent Goods and Services Tax (GST) refund claims at Changi Airport.
They were each charged on Thursday with more than 200 counts of abetment by conspiracy to make false statements in claims made under the GST Act to obtain refunds of GST.
They are: Kothandaraman Gnanam, 29, Karunanidhi Rajesh, 32, Karunanithi Saravanan, 36, Ramaiyan Karthikeyan, 43 and Waithiyalingam Karunanidhi, 63.
In all, the men faced 1,197 charges. They were each offered a bail of $50,000 and will be back in court on Feb 24.
Pretending to be tourists, they bought jewellery invoices from local customers. They then allegedly used these invoices and their passports to obtain tickets under the electronic tourist refund scheme (eTRS) and claim the refunds at the port of departure.
The eTRS is available only to tourists to claim GST refund on goods they have purchased and taken out of Singapore.
Singapore citizens, permanent residents (PR) and foreigners working here are excluded from the scheme.
In joint a statement on Wednesday, Iras and Singapore Customs said they take a serious view on fraudulent GST refund claims and will not hesitate to take stern enforcement action against these individuals and any persons assisting them.
Under the GST Act, it is an offence to make a false GST refund claim or assist another person to make a false claim.
Offenders may face a penalty of three times the amount of tax refunded. They can also be fined up to $10,000, jailed up to seven years, or both.
Last year, it was reported that those prosecuted for abusing the tourist refund scheme have tried to make away with a total of $334,000 from 2010 to 2015.