Former Singapore Customs officer, 61, to go to jail for GST tourist refund ruse

Pang Yeow Biah pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraudulently obtaining goods and services tax tourist refunds totalling $8,302.05. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - For two years, a Singapore Customs officer repeatedly abused her position to fraudulently obtain goods and services tax (GST) tourist refunds.

In total, she received more than $16,000.

Pang Yeow Biah, 61, who is no longer working there, pleaded guilty on Friday (April 20) to 10 counts of fraudulently obtaining the refunds totalling $8,302.05.

She also admitted to three counts of dealing with the benefits of her criminal activities.

Pang was sentenced to 15 months and four weeks' jail and ordered to pay a penalty of $24,906.15 - which is three times the amount of tax defrauded in the 10 charges.

Another 33 similar charges involving $7,713.81 were considered during sentencing. She committed the offences between 2012 and 2014.

Pang had been deployed at Changi Airport and was tasked to process GST refund claims by tourists leaving Singapore.

The court heard that the electronic tourist refund scheme (eTRS) allows departing tourists, who have purchased goods from participating retailers, to obtain refunds of the GST amounts they paid.

These retailers issue the tourists an eTRS ticket generated from a terminal inside their stores.

At the airport, the tourists can either use the eTRS self-help kiosk or present an eTRS ticket to a Singapore Customs officer.

Instead of helping some of the tourists, Pang rejected their claims and retained the supporting documents which included their eTRS tickets.

She then took the details of these "rejected" claims and used the eTRS system to electronically process the refunds for her own use.

The GST refunds were credited to two credit cards registered under the name of her son's former girlfriend.

However, the cards were under Pang's control. Pang used the refunds to repay her own credit card debts.

She was caught after the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) detected in September 2014 suspicious eTRS claims approved by Singapore Customs officers.

In a joint statement, Iras, the Singapore Customs and the Singapore Police Force said that measures such as built-in system checks are in place to identify cases to be selected for further inspection.

Through data analytics, Iras and Singapore Customs are also able to detect suspicious GST refund claims and fraudulent activities.

Pang was offered bail of $15,000. She will surrender herself at the State Courts on May 18 to begin serving her sentence.

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