Jail for man who fled custody over illegal cigs

A construction worker who was arrested by Singapore Customs officers for dealing in contraband cigarettes tried to flee from their 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) with three Customs officers in pursuit.

Hossain climbed over a centre divider on the expressway to elude the officers but was recaptured after they spotted him hiding in a nearby drain.

He was jailed for a year and 10 months on Monday after pleading guilty to one count each of dealing with contraband cigarettes and escaping from the officers' custody.

The court heard that around 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 around 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 later found that Hossain had a high concentration of white blood cells in his body and suspected that he might have a lung infection.

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

As soon as the X-ray was done, Hossain suddenly dashed out of the room and ran towards the AYE.

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 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2019, with the headline 'Jail for man who fled custody over illegal cigs'. Print Edition | Subscribe