Singaporean fined $11 million, jailed 50 months for dealing in contraband cigarettes

Tong Chye Heng was arrested on June 2, 2017, for storing a total of 2,926 cartons, 370 packets and 43 sticks of duty-unpaid cigarettes in a farm along Soon Lee Street.
Tong Chye Heng was arrested on June 2, 2017, for storing a total of 2,926 cartons, 370 packets and 43 sticks of duty-unpaid cigarettes in a farm along Soon Lee Street.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS
While out on bail, Tong Chye Heng was arrested again in a car park after officers spotted him transferring a box of contraband cigarettes from his van to a car.
While out on bail, Tong Chye Heng was arrested again in a car park after officers spotted him transferring a box of contraband cigarettes from his van to a car. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

SINGAPORE - A 58-year-old Singaporean man was jailed 50 months and fined $11 million on Monday (Feb 26) for storing, possessing and dealing in contraband cigarettes while out on bail for similar offences.

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

The Singapore Customs said in a statement on Tuesday 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 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.

Tong has been sentenced on four previous occasions since 1998 for custom offences, the statement said.

On June 2 last year, Tong was nabbed for storing a total of 2,926 cartons, 370 packets and 43 sticks of contraband cigarette.

These were found in a Sungei Tengah Road farm 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 car park 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 car park.

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.


Singapore Customs officers followed up with a raid on Dec 7, 2017, at an industrial building in Eunos Avenue 3 and uncovered an additional 624 cartons and 469 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes from a unit rented by Tong. PHOTO: SINGAPORE CUSTOMS

The total duty and GST evaded for the contraband on cigarettes seized in the operations on June 2, and Dec 5 and 7 totalled about $377,150 and $27,330 respectively.

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

If convicted, offenders may be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded and/or jailed for up to six years.

Repeat offenders 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.