Man gets jail for contraband cigarettes and trying to escape from custody

SINGAPORE - A construction worker, who was arrested by Singapore Customs officers for contraband cigarettes, tried to escape from custody while in hospital for an X-ray.

Hossain Md Masum, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi, dashed out of the National University Hospital (NUH) and ran across Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE) while three Customs officers gave chase.

Hossain climbed over a centre divider on the expressway but the officers found in a nearby drain and caught him.

Hossain was given a jail sentence of one year and 10 months on Monday (March 11) after pleading guilty to one count each of dealing with contraband cigarettes and escaping from the officers' custody.

The court heard that about 6pm on Jan 10, Singapore Customs officers conducted an operation at a storage unit facility in Riverside Road near Marsiling and caught Hossain with more than 1,000 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes.

After his arrest, he complained of pain in his left shoulder and was sent to NUH for a medical examination at about 3am on Jan 11.

Customs officers accompanied him to the hospital where he had to take a blood test and an X-ray.

A doctor found that Hossain had a high concentration of white blood cells, and suspected he might have a lung infection.

A senior radiographer then told the Customs officers to remove Hossain's handcuffs to allow him to place his arms around the X-ray machine.

Just when the the X-ray was done, Hossain bolted.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Ng Jun Chong told the court that the Customs officers had seen Hossain jumping into the drain.

The DPP said: "They eventually found him panting heavily in a covered area of the drain and detained him. The accused sustained some abrasions when he fell during the chase."

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Singapore Customs said that it took a serious view of the incident.

A spokesman said: "We have conducted a review and have since implemented measures to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents."

For escaping from custody, Hossain could have been jailed for up to two years and fined.

Those convicted of dealing with contraband cigarettes could be jailed for up to three years and fined.