ICA foils 3 bids to smuggle cigarettes

Last Friday, 1,648 cartons of cigarettes were found hidden in the base and side walls of cabinets and tables (above) in a lorry. The 48-year-old driver was arrested.
Last Friday, 1,648 cartons of cigarettes were found hidden in the base and side walls of cabinets and tables (above) in a lorry. The 48-year-old driver was arrested.PHOTOS: IMMIGRATION AND CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY

Over 4,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes, hidden in other items, seized at Jurong Port

Three attempts to smuggle contraband cigarettes into Singapore have been thwarted by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) since last week .

ICA officers seized close to 4,100 cartons of cigarettes at Jurong Port, where smugglers had tried to pass them off as consignments of other items. The unpaid duty and goods and services tax (GST) on the contraband amounted to more than $425,000, said the ICA in a statement yesterday.

In the first incident last Friday, officers observed anomalies in the scanned shipment of cabinets and tables in a lorry. The lorry was sent for radiographic scanning and inspections later revealed 1,648 cartons of cigarettes hidden in the base and side walls of the furniture. The 48-year-old driver was arrested.

Four days later, scanners again picked up anomalies in three pallets of paintings, drawings and other materials. Officers later found 900 cartons of cigarettes stuffed into hollow spaces between the paintings, and arrested the 53-year-old lorry driver.

In the third incident on Wednesday, officers found 1,550 cartons of illegal cigarettes in a consignment of soundproofing panels after scanners picked up unusual readings. The contraband was hidden within the panels. The 39-year-old lorry driver was arrested.

All three men, their vehicles and the contraband have been handed over to Customs for investigation. It is unknown if the three attempts were connected.

If found to be used for smuggling, the vehicles could be forfeited.

Just last week, a key member of a smuggling syndicate was jailed five years on two charges of cigarette smuggling. He had been involved in a 2013 case involving 14,400 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes. The duty and GST evaded amounted to more than $1.3 million.

The ICA said yesterday it would continue to conduct checks to thwart smuggling of undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contraband into the country.

"The same methods of concealment used by contraband smugglers may be used by terrorists to smuggle arms and explosives to carry out attacks in Singapore," said the spokesman.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline 'ICA foils 3 bids to smuggle cigarettes'. Print Edition | Subscribe