Repeat offender gets 40 months' jail, $8.7m fine for dealing with contraband cigarettes

A total of 3,050 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized in a consignment declared as "machinery parts and accessories".
A total of 3,050 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized in a consignment declared as "machinery parts and accessories".PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Singapore Customs officers found local and foreign currencies of more than $120,000 in a follow-up search of the offender's car.
Singapore Customs officers found local and foreign currencies of more than $120,000 in a follow-up search of the offender's car. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

SINGAPORE - The director of a logistics company has been sentenced to 40 months' jail and a fine of $8.7 million for dealing with and storing contraband cigarettes.

Iskandar Abu Bakar, a repeat offender, was sentenced by the State Courts on Monday (Jan 15), the Singapore Customs said in a statement on Wednesday.

If he cannot pay the fine, he will serve another 20 months in jail in default.

The 44-year-old was arrested on July 6 last year when Singapore Customs officers conducted an operation at the Changi Airfreight Centre (CAC).

They inspected a consignment of two wooden crates that had been declared as "machinery parts and accessories", that were meant to be sent to Iskandar's logistics company.

The officers found a total of 3,050 cartons of contraband cigarettes in the two wooden crates.

Iskandar had ordered the cigarettes from Jakarta, Indonesia, and engaged another Singaporean, 44-year-old Hashbullah Taufiq Mohd Amin, to retrieve and repack the cigarettes from the wooden crates, investigations revealed.

Iskandar had intended to smuggle the cigarettes in his car out from the CAC in multiple trips. However, the pair's plans were foiled by Singapore Customs, which conducted a follow-up search of Iskandar's car later that same day.

Officers found local and foreign currencies of more than $120,000, as well as an additional carton plus 25 packets of contraband cigarettes.

All the contraband cigarettes were seized. The total duty and goods and services tax evaded amounted to about $287,330 and $21,000 respectively.

The seized cash was handed over to the Commercial Affairs Department on Oct 4 last year for further investigation.

Iskandar pleaded guilty to two charges. Another two charges were taken into consideration in the sentencing.

He had previously been sentenced to 12 months' jail on June 23, 2008, for dealing with 500 cartons of contraband cigarettes.

As a repeat offender, he is liable to an enhanced punishment under the Customs Act, which includes a mandatory jail term of up to six years, as well as a heavier fine of no less than 30 times the duty or GST evaded.

The sentence handed to Iskandar for dealing with contraband cigarettes is the highest since 2014, a Singapore Customs spokesman told ST.

On Oct 3, 2014, another offender received a sentence of three years and six months' jail and a $14 million fine for dealing with contraband cigarettes.

Hashbullah was dealt with separately and was sentenced to 30 months' jail on July 31 last year for dealing with contraband cigarettes.

Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with contraband goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act, Singapore Customs said.

Offenders will be severely dealt with. They can be jailed for up to six years and/or fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded.

Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will also face mandatory imprisonment. Vehicles used in the commission of such offences are also liable to be forfeited.