Man fined $900,000 for swopping container of dutiable beer with soft drinks and water

Ooi Kok Keng will serve nine months' jail in default due to not being able to afford the $900,000 fine.
Ooi Kok Keng will serve nine months' jail in default due to not being able to afford the $900,000 fine. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A man who conspired with several men to defraud the Government of customs and excise duty on beer amounting to $110,562 will spend nine months in prison.

Ooi Kok Keng, 44, admitted scheming with Terry Tan Yong Hui, 36, a man known as Jimmy Fong and other unknown persons in 2014 to divert a sealed container with 2,700 cartons of Heineken beer on which customs duty was not paid from the licensed warehouse to a warehouse at Tagore Lane instead of its intended destination at the Free Trade Zone at Keppel for export purposes.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Soh Weiqi said due to a $15,000 debt Ooi owed to a loanshark, he worked as a coordinator for Polycom Drinks Trading in December 2011. Polycom's owner was Jimmy Fong.

Ooi's job was to coordinate logistics and deliveries, make calls to arrange for shipments and arrange transport. In August 2014, Polycom imported 64,800 cans of Heineken beer and stored them in a licensed warehouse. They were supposed to be exported to Malaysia.

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

DPP Soh said Ooi arranged for the sealed container to be delivered to the warehouse at TG Building at Tagore Lane instead of the intended location at Keppel FTZ for export.

At Tagore Lane, the beers from the container were swopped with soft drinks before it was resealed with a new seal.

Ooi then arranged for the sealed container with the soft drinks and mineral water to be transported to the Keppel FTZ for export instead of beer.

The offence came to light when Customs informed Ooi on Aug 20 that they were going to inspect his container.

After Ooi had contacted Fong, arrangements were made for the two containers of beer and soft drinks to be delivered to a warehouse at Keppel FTZ the next day.

While workers were unloading soft drinks from the container, Customs officers came and seized the goods.

Ooi was fined $900,000, and as he could not pay the fine, he will serve nine months' jail in default. He could have been fined between $5,000 and $2.2 million under the Customs Act.

elena@sph.com.sg