Cigarette smugglers' loot goes up in smoke

In the first quarter of 2020, Singapore Customs seized more than 185,000 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes. The Straits Times gets an exclusive look into an anti-smuggling operation.
Contraband cigarettes being crushed and incinerated in Tuas South last Thursday. In all, four tonnes of contraband cigarettes, with an estimated $1.7 million in duty evaded, were marked for disposal.
Customs officers raiding a Woodlands flat last month. A Chinese national was arrested with 1,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes hidden in metal boxes. The illegal cigarettes had been declared as tea. The officers had been monitoring the shipment closely and made the arrest when the suspect left his flat to dispose of the metal boxes. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
Above: Customs officers raiding a Woodlands flat last month. A Chinese national was arrested with 1,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes hidden in metal boxes. The illegal cigarettes had been declared as tea. The officers had been monitoring the ship
Customs officers sorting through the contraband cigarettes. After the raid, the illicit cigarettes were documented and taken to a warehouse at the Customs Operations Command in Bulim Drive. They were later repacked into smaller boxes and photographed as evidence. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
Above: Customs officers raiding a Woodlands flat last month. A Chinese national was arrested with 1,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes hidden in metal boxes. The illegal cigarettes had been declared as tea. The officers had been monitoring the ship
Officers at the Customs Operations Command conducting their final round of checks last Thursday before four tonnes of contraband cigarettes were sent for incineration. In the first quarter, more than 185,000 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized.ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
Above: Customs officers raiding a Woodlands flat last month. A Chinese national was arrested with 1,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes hidden in metal boxes. The illegal cigarettes had been declared as tea. The officers had been monitoring the ship
Contraband cigarettes being crushed and incinerated in Tuas South last Thursday. In all, four tonnes of contraband cigarettes, with an estimated $1.7 million in duty evaded, were marked for disposal.ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

The smuggler may have thought the coast was clear after successfully receiving a large shipment of contraband cigarettes.

But the game was up the moment he left his Woodlands flat to discard metal boxes used to hide the duty-unpaid cigarettes that were declared as tea.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2020, with the headline 'Cigarette smugglers' loot goes up in smoke'. Print Edition | Subscribe