Jewellery shop partner fined $63k over role in GST tourist refund scam

The partner conspired with the jewellery store's employees to issue eTRS tickets that enabled claimants to fraudulently claim goods and services tax refunds totalling more than $14,000.
The partner conspired with the jewellery store's employees to issue eTRS tickets that enabled claimants to fraudulently claim goods and services tax refunds totalling more than $14,000.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A partner of a Little India jewellery store was fined $63,000 on Tuesday (Dec 3) 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. Another 39 charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

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 a Malaysian, the other five are Indian nationals. The men committed the offences in 2015 and 2016.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said that the bogus claims were linked to five claimants - 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.

Kothandaraman Gnanam, 29; Karunanidhi Rajesh, 32; Karunanithi Saravanan, 37; Ramaiyan Karthikeyan, 44; and Waithiyalingam Karunanidhi, 61, 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 give the invoice, a claimant would give his passport and embarkation card to an employee of Abiraame Jewellers for the purposes 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 claimants to unlawfully claim at the airport.

In its statement, Iras stressed that it is an offence for an individual to assist another person in obtaining fraudulent eTRS refunds, such as selling one's receipt or invoice.

It added: "Iras will not hesitate to take stern enforcement actions against any individual who with wilful intent make a false GST refund claim or assist any other person to make false claims."

Those convicted of the offence under the GST (General) Regulations can be fined up to $5,000 on each charge.