SINGAPORE - The couple who fled Singapore after allegedly failing to deliver luxury goods, worth at least $32 million, to customers did so by hiding in the container compartment of a lorry.
The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said this on Wednesday (July 20).
In response to queries from The Straits Times, an ICA spokesman said a 40-year-old Malaysian man helped the couple leave Singapore illegally.
According to court documents, the man, Mohamed Alias, allegedly aided a female Thai national who did not present her Thai passport to an immigration officer at the authorised departing location.
The spokesman said the man allegedly hid the woman and her husband in a lorry's container compartment. His case has been adjourned to Friday (July 22).
The spokesman added: "ICA takes a serious view of attempts to enter or depart Singapore illegally and will not hesitate to prosecute offenders for such cases.
"We are working closely with the relevant authorities on this case."
ICA said it conducts checks on all arrivals and adopts a risk management approach for checks on departing conveyances, in order to balance smooth departure clearance and border security at the checkpoints.
ICA added: "Departing conveyances may also be directed for further checks based on risk profiling or any information received."
The police told ST on Tuesday that they arrested a 26-year-old Singaporean man on June 27 for his suspected involvement in cheating offences.
His passport was impounded and he was released on bail the next day, pending the completion of investigations.
His wife, 27, was also assisting the police with investigations and surrendered her passport to the police on June 30. The couple subsequently became uncontactable, said the police.
The police arrested Mohamed last Wednesday for allegedly helping the couple leave Singapore on July 4.
He was charged last Friday with abetting another person to depart Singapore illegally.
The police said it is working closely with foreign law enforcement counterparts to trace the couple and the criminal proceeds.
"Warrants of arrest and Interpol red notices have been issued against the couple," added the police.
At least 180 reports have been lodged against the couple since June.
The victims claimed they had made advance payments for luxury watches or luxury bags to the couple, who failed to deliver them.
ST spoke to 10 victims, aged between 24 and 52, over the past week and most of them said they trusted the couple as their business was registered as a regulated dealer and had a certificate from Ministry of Law (MinLaw) to prove it.
A MinLaw spokesman had said the business, named Tradenation, was registered as a precious stones and precious metals dealer on April 2.
"Registered dealers are regulated by the Registrar of Regulated Dealers only for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism purposes," said the spokesman.
At the point of Tradenation's registration, there were no grounds to refuse it, said MinLaw.
But the ministry has now suspended its registration, which can also be terminated if it is found guilty of an offence.