SINGAPORE - Eleven drivers have been jailed this year for helping to smuggle contraband cigarettes from Malaysia into Singapore, even as the number of those responding to online advertisements seeking such drivers has risen.
The drivers had come across advertisements online which offered flexible working hours and high salaries for part-time drivers, the Singapore Customs said in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 19).
The 11 drivers, including both men and women, received between four and eight months' jail for their actions. They were jailed from January this year to mid-September.
In one recent case, a 61-year-old Singaporean Manap Umas was sentenced to six months' jail on Sept 13 for smuggling contraband cigarettes from Malaysia into Singapore.
He had seen an ad on online marketplace Carousell, which offered a high salary for drivers, investigations revealed.
He contacted the person who ran the ad and was told that the job involved smuggling contraband cigarettes, and was promised $500 for every successful trip he made.
Manap took the job and was asked to drive a modified car, concealing contraband cigarettes, across the border.
He was arrested at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Sept 12.
A total of 226 cartons and 760 packets of contraband cigarettes were found hidden in several modified compartments of the car he drove.
The duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to about $23,440 and $1,740 respectively.
In another case, two Malaysian women received six months' and 22 weeks' jail respectively for smuggling contraband cigarettes into Singapore.
Chai Fei Yun, 31, accepted a job offer on Facebook to smuggle the cigarettes to Singapore, investigations revealed.
She asked Teng Siaw Fean, 20, to help her with the smuggling job.
Teng was in debt and helped her.
Both the women were promised a total payment of $420 for each successful delivery.
Chai tried to drive a car that hid contraband cigarettes through the Woodlands Checkpoint on Aug 18, with Teng as her passenger.
However, both were stopped and arrested, and a total of 256 cartons and 701 packets of contraband cigarettes seized.
The unpaid duty and GST amounted to about $25,310 and $1,880 respectively.
Singapore Customs' assistant director-general (Intelligence and Investigation) Yeo Sew Meng said Singapore Customs has noticed more people falling prey to online ads seeking drivers to transport contraband cigarettes across the border.
"Such job offers may appear attractive but they often make false promises for payment and you will end up paying a high price when you are caught," he said.
Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are offences under the Customs Act and the Goods and Services Tax Act.
Those found guilty can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded and/or jailed for up to six years.
Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products face jail times, and the vehicles they use can be forfeited.