Ship provision supplier jailed 18 months for storing duty-unpaid cigarettes, evasion of duty and GST

Tan pleaded guilty to one charge of storing duty-unpaid cigarettes and nine charges of fraudulent evasion of duty. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Singapore Customs officers checked the premises and found a total of 86 cartons and three packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
Singapore Customs officers checked the premises and found a total of 86 cartons and three packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean man was sentenced to 18 months in jail last week for storing duty-unpaid cigarettes and for evasion of duty and goods and services tax (GST) by inflating in permits the quantity of duty-unpaid cigarettes he was supplying to ships.

Tan Tong Meng, 63, was the sole proprietor of VSL Maritime Services and Supplies, which supplies provisions to vessels berthed in Singapore waters, said the Singapore Customs in a statement on Wednesday (May 18).

Tan would purchase cigarettes from licensed warehouses when he received orders for cigarettes from the vessels.

These cigarettes, considered as exports when supplied to ships as provisions, were exempted from duty and GST.

Tan liaised with the warehouses to apply for export permits so that the cigarettes could be delivered to the vessels.

On multiple occasions between August 2020 and June 2021, Tan ordered more cigarettes than the actual quantity required by the vessels.

He diverted the excess cigarettes inland and stored them at VSL's premises for either resale or personal consumption.

On July 2, 2021, Singapore Customs officers checked the premises and found a total of 86 cartons and three packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes.

Further investigations revealed that Tan had similarly evaded duty and GST by reporting excess duty-unpaid cigarettes in 14 other export permits and diverting the goods later.

Tan pleaded guilty to one charge of storing duty-unpaid cigarettes and nine charges of fraudulent evasion of duty.

The total duty evaded for the 10 charges amounted to about $68,000.

Another charge of storing duty-unpaid cigarettes and 25 charges of fraudulent evasion of duty and GST were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The total duty evaded for the 26 charges amounted to about $17,000 and the GST evaded was about $7,000.

Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, possessing or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act.

Offenders can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded, jailed for up to six years, or both.

Those with information on smuggling activities or evasion of duty or GST can call the Singapore Customs hotline on 1800-2330-000 or e-mail customs_intelligence@customs.gov.sg to report these illegal activities.

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