Man jailed 4 years, fined $34 million for dealing with largest amount of contraband cigarettes to date

SINGAPORE - A recalcitrant offender was sentenced on Friday (Feb 1) to four years' jail with a whopping fine of $34 million for dealing with the largest amount of contraband cigarettes in Singapore to date.

Singaporean Ng Ghim Hong, 32, who dealt with more than 2,700kg of duty-unpaid cigarettes, will have to spend an additional two years and four months behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.

The court heard that he was convicted of a similar offence in 2009 for dealing in more than 1,000kg of contraband tobacco products.

He was then sentenced to 1½ years' jail.

In November last year, he pleaded guilty to one count of dealing with uncustomed goods with the intent to defraud the Government of the excise duty.

Ng was part of a syndicated operation closely coordinated between Singapore and Malaysia.

It all started in 2014 when one of his accomplices, Malaysian Mohd Nor Alif Ramlan, 28, got to know a man known only as "Ah Yang".

Ah Yang, also a Malaysian, then offered him a job to unload bags of cotton cloth into a warehouse in Sungei Kadut. Alif was later told to liaise with Ng for the job.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Thiam Jia Min and Tan Weiming stated in court documents: "In mid-2015, the first job involved Alif assisting to unload gunny bags from containers into a warehouse.

"In the course of this unloading operation, Alif detected squarish and hard items inside the gunny bags and realised that it was duty-unpaid cigarettes.

"Despite knowing that it was duty-unpaid cigarettes, Alif continued working for Ah Yang as he was in need of money."

In mid-2016, Ah Yang asked Alif to meet Ng at a Taman Jurong fast-food restaurant.

Ng then took Alif to the warehouse in Tuas South Avenue 10 and told the Malaysian to unload duty-unpaid cigarettes there.

Investigation revealed that Ng would act as the intermediary between Ah Yang and Alif when dealing with contraband cigarettes.

The court heard that Customs officers conducted an operation on Feb 22, 2017, to trail a container transported by a prime mover as it was suspected of containing contraband cigarettes.

They followed it from PSA Tanjong Pagar Gate 1, and it arrived at the Tuas South Avenue 10 warehouse at around 10.15am that day.

At around 6.40pm, officers spotted Alif and five other Malaysians removing pallets from the container and arrested the group.

The six men later admitted that they had been dealing with contraband cigarettes.

Officers spotted Ng's black car in the vicinity and he was later arrested.

Alif was sentenced to three years' jail in March 2017 for his role in the offence.

The outcomes of the cases involving the other Malaysians were not mentioned in court documents.