He swopped duty-unpaid beer with soft drinks

Logistics coordinator and others wanted to resell 64,800 cans of beer meant for export

A man who conspired with others to evade government levies on 29,000 litres of beer has been given a nine-month jail sentence

Ooi Kok Keng, 44, coordinated logistics and deliveries for Polycom Drinks Trading and, along with the firm's owner, known to Ooi as "Jimmy Fong", and several other people, tried to defraud the Government out of more than $110,000 in Customs and excise duty.

The group planned to replace a shipment of duty-unpaid Heineken meant for export with soft drinks, then sell the beer. But they were caught in a Customs inspection.

Ooi was fined $900,000 yesterday but as he could not pay it, he will serve nine months' jail in default.

He admitted to scheming with Fong and others to divert a sealed container with 2,700 cartons of beer from a licensed warehouse to a warehouse in Tagore Lane, instead of its intended destination in the Keppel Free Trade Zone (FTZ), where it was due to be exported.

In August 2014, Polycom imported 64,800 cans of Heineken beer, stored them in a licensed warehouse to be exported later.

On Aug 19 that year, Ooi arranged for the beer to be loaded into a container. Before that, he passed the supervisor of the haulier a container seal which was prepared and given to him by one of Fong's men.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Soh Weiqi said Ooi arranged for the sealed container to be delivered to the warehouse at TG Building in Tagore Lane instead of the intended export location in the Keppel FTZ. In Tagore Lane, the cartons from the container were swopped with soft drinks before it was resealed with a new seal. Ooi then arranged for the sealed container to be transported to the FTZ.

The offence came to light when Customs informed Ooi on Aug 20 that they were going to inspect his container. Customs officers seized the goods after they were moved to a warehouse in Keppel.

The court heard that the plan was to sell the beer to businessman Terry Tan Yong Hui, 36, whose case is pending. It is not known if Fong has been arrested.

Ooi could have been fined between $5,000 and $2.2 million under the Customs Act.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'He swopped duty-unpaid beer with soft drinks'. Print Edition | Subscribe