Director jailed, fined $8.7m for 2nd illegal cigarette offence

Officers found 3,050 cartons of contraband cigarettes in a consignment declared as "machinery parts and accessories".
Officers found 3,050 cartons of contraband cigarettes in a consignment declared as "machinery parts and accessories".PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

The director of a logistics company was sentenced to 40 months' jail by the State Courts on Monday and given a fine of $8.7 million for dealing with and storing contraband cigarettes.

Iskandar Abu Bakar, 44, a repeat offender, was arrested on July 6 last year when Singapore Customs officers conducted an operation at the Changi Airfreight Centre (CAC).

They inspected a consignment of two wooden crates declared as "machinery parts and accessories" that were bound for his company.

Inside, the officers found 3,050 cartons of contraband cigarettes.

Iskandar had ordered the cigarettes from Jakarta and engaged another Singaporean, Hashbullah Taufiq Mohd Amin, also 44, to retrieve and repack the cigarettes from the crates, investigations revealed.

Iskandar had intended to smuggle the cigarettes from the CAC in multiple trips in his car. But the pair's plans were foiled by Customs officers, who conducted a search of Iskandar's car later that day.

Officers found local and foreign currencies of more than $120,000, as well as more contraband cigarettes.

All the cigarettes were seized. The total duty and goods and services tax evaded amounted to about $287,330 and $21,000 respectively.

Iskandar pleaded guilty to two charges. Another two charges were taken into consideration in the sentencing.

Ten years ago, he had drawn 12 months' jail for dealing in 500 cartons of contraband cigarettes.

As a repeat offender, he is liable to an enhanced punishment under the Customs Act, which includes a mandatory jail term of up to six years, as well as a heavier fine of no less than 30 times the duty or GST evaded.

The sentence handed to Iskandar for dealing in contraband cigarettes is the highest since 2014, a Singapore Customs spokesman told The Straits Times.

If he cannot pay the fine, he will serve another 20 months in jail in default.

Hashbullah was dealt with separately and was sentenced to 30 months' jail on July 31 last year for dealing in contraband cigarettes.

Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing in contraband goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act, Singapore Customs said.

Offenders will be severely dealt with. They can be jailed for up to six years and/or fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded.

Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will also face mandatory imprisonment. Vehicles used in the commission of such offences are also liable to be forfeited.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2018, with the headline 'Director jailed, fined $8.7m for 2nd illegal cigarette offence'. Print Edition | Subscribe