Director fined more than $100k over conspiracy to help tourists unlawfully get GST refunds

Woo Sin Chai pleaded guilty to multiple charges under the Goods and Services Tax (General) Regulations. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A jewellery firm director was fined $104,400 on Wednesday (March 23) over his role in a conspiracy in which tourists unlawfully obtained goods and services tax (GST) refunds that they were not entitled to.

The cases involving Woo Sin Chai from Arthesdam Jewellery and his colleagues were linked to large amounts of GST tourist refunds totalling $16,975, which were claimed from 2015 to 2016.

Woo, now 61, had pleaded guilty to multiple charges under the Goods and Services Tax (General) Regulations.

The court heard that Arthesdam Jewellery has shops in Serangoon Road.

Woo, a Singaporean, had attended training on the electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) and was in charge of eTRS matters at the company.

Senior tax prosecutor from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) David Lim said the Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) allows tourists to claim a refund of GST paid by them.

Woo was at his workplace between March 2015 and May 2016 when he conspired with some colleagues to help five foreigners unlawfully obtain GST refunds.

The five Indian nationals - Kothandaraman Gnanam, Karunanidhi Rajesh, Karunanithi Saravanan, Ramaiyan Karthikeyan and Waithiyalingam Karunanidhi - who were then between 29 and 61 years old, were jailed in 2017 for their part in the offences.

Arthesdam Jewellery was just one of the companies linked to their ruse.

The men were part of a scheme where they posed as tourists to obtain eTRS tickets before making fraudulent GST refund claims that they were not entitled to.

The Straits Times had earlier reported that the syndicate made more than $167,000 in fraudulent GST tourist refund claims.

By the time the men were caught, they had moved the benefits of their criminal conduct totalling $112,924 out of Singapore.

As part of their illegal scheme, syndicate members loitered around a number of Little India jewellery stores to try to obtain invoices from actual customers.

Once a customer agreed to sell or give the invoice, a syndicate member would give his passport and embarkation card to a jewellery store employee to apply for a GST refund under the claimant's passport number.

The employee then entered the claimant's details and the jewellery purchased into the eTRS system and print an eTRS refund ticket for the tourist to unlawfully claim the refund amount at the airport.

In its earlier statement, Iras had stressed that it is an offence for an individual to help another person obtain fraudulent eTRS refunds, such as by selling one's receipt or invoice.

To date, nine other Arthesdam Jewellery employees have been dealt with in court and were given fines in January this year.

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