SINGAPORE - More foreign workers are getting involved in duty-unpaid cigarette activities to earn money on the side, the Singapore Customs said in a media release on Thursday (Jan 12).
Nine were caught in the first six months of 2016, while 12 were caught in the second half.
They usually advertise for work during their free time, on social media platforms such as Shi Cheng BBS and WeChat, and are then hired by illegal cigarette syndicates to deliver the goods. Some even use their employers' vehicles to do so.
In one case, a 36-year-old male Chinese national was arrested on Dec 9 after delivering a consignment containing duty-unpaid cigarettes hidden in display stands at a company building in Tuas. He had been hired by an unknown person after advertising for work on the social media platform QQ.
About $186,940 in duties and $18,820 in Goods and Services Tax (GST) were evaded for the 2,409 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes seized. Investigations are ongoing.
In another case, two male Chinese nationals were sentenced by the State Courts on Nov 14. Chen Jie, 35, was sentenced to four months' imprisonment and a fine of $1,250, while Zheng Chao Lin, 23, was sentenced to four months' jail and a fine of $1,000.
Chen had been engaged by Zheng to make deliveries during his free time, and used his employer's van to do so. The vehicle was seized.
Over 1,873 cartons were seized, with some found hidden in consignments of play mats. The duty and GST evaded amounted to about $145,380 and $14,630 respectively.
On Nov 3, a 28-year-old male Chinese national was arrested, with 799 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes hidden within a consignment of soldering devices seized. The duty and GST evaded amounted to about $62,000 and $6,240 respectively.
He had been offered the job, after advertising on Shi Cheng BBS for work in his free time. Investigations are ongoing.
"Foreign workers looking to earn extra money on the side through illicit activities should be fully aware of the consequences," said Mr Yeo Sew Meng, assistant director-general (Intelligence and Investigation) of Singapore Customs.
"If they are caught for being involved in such illegal activities, they will be prosecuted and their work pass will be revoked, and they will be repatriated after they have fulfilled their sentence.
"We urge employers who allow their workers to drive company vehicles outside working hours to closely monitor the use of the vehicle by their employees," added Mr Yeo. "This will help to prevent company vehicles from being misused for illegal activities, and avoid any inconvenience and financial loss to the vehicle owners."
Under the Customs Act and the GST Act, buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences that will be severely dealt with.
Offenders can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded, and jailed for up to six years.
Repeat offenders caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will face mandatory prison time, with the vehicles used in the commission of the offences liable to be forfeited.