S'pore Customs seizes over 3,200 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes, arrests boy, 16, and 3 men

The 3,232 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes found during the sting amounted to some $298,000 in levies evaded. PHOTO: GOV.SG

SINGAPORE - More than 3,200 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized by Singapore Customs officers during a sting at an industrial unit near Loyang Drive on Tuesday (Dec 28).

A 16-year-old boy and three men were arrested during the operation, Singapore Customs said in a statement on Friday (Dec 31).

Two of them were charged in court on Dec 30, while investigations for the other two are under way.

During the operation, Customs officers checked on a male suspect who was approaching a van after he left the industrial unit.

At the same time, officers moved in to inspect the unit and found another man retrieving duty-unpaid cigarettes hidden in bed frames and packing them into canvas bags.

The two suspects were arrested and two vehicles - a lorry and a van - were seized. Another two men were later arrested for their alleged involvement in dealing with contraband.

The 3,232 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes found during the sting amounted to about $298,000 in levies evaded.

Customs also found 1,056 boxes of pod (compact) e-cigarette and 247 vaporisers in the storeroom of the industrial unit. The case has been referred to the Health Sciences Authority for further investigation.

This is the latest in a string of operations in December conducted by the authorities to clamp down on smugglers and buyers of contraband.

More than 463,000 packets of illegal cigarettes have been seized this year. They were hidden in items such as ventilation fans, mattresses and even Chinese God of Fortune figurines.

On Dec 30, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) foiled an attempt to smuggle into Singapore 600 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes hidden in air-conditioners.

This is the second time in less than three weeks that its officers have detected a similar method of smuggling, ICA said in a Facebook post that day.

Bedframes concealed with duty-unpaid cigarettes found in the cargo compartment of a lorry. PHOTOS: GOV.SG

Earlier in December, Customs officers caught 15 men during an islandwide crackdown on those who bought duty-unpaid cigarettes on online platforms or through peddlers at heavy-vehicle carparks.

Officers posed as couriers to deliver parcels with duty-unpaid cigarettes that were intercepted by ICA, and nabbed those who accepted the parcels.

Two of these buyers were arrested, and another 13 Singaporean men, aged between 21 and 59, were fined between $500 and $5,000.

Customs officers seized a total of 4,137 sticks of cigarettes during the sting, translating into almost $2,800 of levies evaded.

Those who buy duty-unpaid goods can be fined up to 40 times the amount of levies evaded and jailed for up to six years, Customs said.

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