CJ allows appeal of cigarette smuggler against sentence and gives him fine instead

SINGAPORE - After considering financial difficulties faced by a cigarette smuggler, a district judge thought he would not be able to afford the fine for bringing 4.2kg of contraband into Singapore, and sentenced him to three months in jail instead.

But the offender appealed against the sentence four days later after he got in touch with his mother and realised she could foot the bill.

On Thursday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon allowed 29-year-old Hii Ung Hung's appeal and fined him $26,794 instead.

Considering factors including how the Malaysian did not have a lawyer when he admitted to two offences, the judge noted it was an "unusual case" and the district court had not been mistaken in its decision on May 23.

He said he was "sympathetic" to points raised by Hii's lawyer, Mr A. Rajandran. CJ Menon also noted there were no aggravating factors in Hii's case.

Hii had brought the goods across the Causeway intending to sell them for profit, but was arrested at Woodlands Checkpoint on May 22 after they were found hidden in his car.

He admitted to failing to pay excise duty and evading Goods and Services Tax - with possible maximum fines of $32,592 and $10,000 respectively.

Noting financial difficulties Hii had raised, including having to support a newborn baby, District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam chose to impose a jail term.

"I had no reason to believe that the accused would be able to pay the high fines prescribed for the two charges but felt that he would very likely end up serving a default term of imprisonment if a fine was imposed," Judge Ponnampalam had written in her grounds of decision.

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