GST tourist refund scam: Store partner fined $63k

A partner of a Little India jewellery store was fined $63,000 yesterday over his role in a scam involving fraudulent claims under the electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS).

Palaniappan Ramanathan from Abiraame Jewellers conspired with six of the store's employees to issue eTRS tickets that enabled claimants to fraudulently claim goods and services tax (GST) refunds totalling more than $14,000.

The 41-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty to 35 charges under the GST (General) Regulations. He was the last person involved in the scam to be dealt with in court.

In July, six other men who also worked at Abiraame Jewellers were fined between $1,500 and $12,000 for similar offences.

They were: Kulamani Ganesan, 31; Shanmugam Sampathkumar, 33; Manickavasagam Saravanan, 41; Murugesan Saravanan, 42; Pang Wei Koon, 46; and Arumugam Chelladurai, 49.

Except for Pang, who is Malaysian, the other five are Indian nationals. The men committed the offences in 2015 and 2016.

In a statement yesterday, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore said the bogus claims were linked to five claimants, who were all Indian nationals as well.

They took part in a scheme where they posed as tourists to obtain eTRS tickets before making fraudulent GST refund claims that they were not entitled to. They were jailed in 2017.

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 or claimants would loiter around a number of Little India jewellery stores, including Abiraame Jewellers' two outlets, to try to obtain invoices from actual customers.

Once a customer agreed to sell or hand over the invoice, a claimant would give his passport and embarkation card to an employee of Abiraame Jewellers for the purpose of making an application for a GST refund under the claimant's passport number.

The employee would then enter the details of the claimant and the jewellery purchased into the eTRS system.

After that, the employee would print an eTRS refund ticket for the claimant to unlawfully claim the refund at the airport.

Shaffiq Alkhatib

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2019, with the headline 'GST tourist refund scam: Store partner fined $63k'. Print Edition | Subscribe