Man fined $11 million, jailed for dealing in contraband cigarettes

More than 4,000 cartons and 1,000 packets of contraband cigarettes were seized in three raids last year. Tong Chye Heng, a repeat offender, was fined $11 million and jailed for 50 months.
More than 4,000 cartons and 1,000 packets of contraband cigarettes were seized in three raids last year. Tong Chye Heng, a repeat offender, was fined $11 million and jailed for 50 months.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

A Singaporean man was jailed for 50 months and fined $11 million on Monday for storing, possessing and dealing in contraband cigarettes while out on bail for similar offences.

Tong Chye Heng, 58, had pleaded guilty to five charges, with another five taken into consideration for sentencing.

The Singapore Customs said in a statement yesterday that Tong will serve another 31 months of default imprisonment, as he did not pay the fine ordered by the court.

This brings his total jail term to 81 months.

As a repeat offender, Tong was also liable for enhanced punishment under the Customs Act, which includes a mandatory jail term of up to six years and a heftier fine of at least 30 times the duty or goods and services tax (GST) evaded.

He had been sentenced on four occasions since 1998 for customs offences, the statement said.

On June 2 last year, he was nabbed for storing a total of 2,926 cartons, 370 packets and 43 individual contraband cigarettes. These were found in a farm in Sungei Tengah Road and a commercial building in Soon Lee Street. He was charged in court on June 3.

However, while out on bail, he was arrested in a carpark in Jurong West Street 41 during a Singapore Customs operation on Dec 5. Officers spotted him transferring a box of contraband cigarettes from his van to a car in the carpark.

A total of 731 cartons and 190 packets of contraband cigarettes were seized from his van.

In a follow-up raid two days later, officers uncovered an additional 624 cartons and 469 packets of contraband cigarettes in a unit at an industrial building in Eunos Avenue 3.

The total duty and GST evaded on the cigarettes seized in the June operation and the two December raids totalled about $377,150 and $27,330 respectively.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Man fined $11 million, jailed for dealing in contraband cigarettes'. Print Edition | Subscribe