SINGAPORE - A 50-year-old syndicate leader was jailed five years and eight months, and fined $30 million, on Thursday (March 22) for crafting a plan to smuggle contraband cigarettes into Singapore.
Mok Chee Kin, who is stateless, was handed the heaviest sentence for contraband cigarette offences in four years, Singapore Customs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau said in a joint statement.
According to the statement, Mok was the mastermind of a plan to smuggle contraband cigarettes via Jurong Port into Singapore.
He was convicted of a total of eight charges, including bribing a Certis Cisco senior protection officer.
The statement added that he will serve another 30 months' jail as he did not pay the court fine, bringing his total imprisonment term to five years and 38 months.
An offender was previously sentenced to three years and six months' jail and fined $14 million in October 2014 for dealing in contraband cigarettes.
As a repeat offender, Mok was liable for enhanced punishment under the Customs Act, which includes a mandatory jail term of up to six years and a heavier fine of at least 30 times the goods and services tax (GST) evaded, the statement said.
He was last jailed seven months in 2011 for contraband cigarette offences.
According to the statement, Singapore Customs officers were on the lookout for a white truck during an operation in the vicinity of Jurong Port on March 30, 2016.
It was suspected that the truck was used to smuggle contraband cigarettes out of the port.
Officers moved in to conduct a check when they spotted the truck and uncovered a total of 10,500 cartons of contraband cigarettes.
The total duty and GST evaded amounted to about $898,600 and $87,230 respectively.
Investigations later revealed that Mok had recruited the 36-year-old Singaporean truck driver, Devinderan Arajinan, for his smuggling plan.
Mok had earlier in November 2015 met Devinderan and another man, 31-year-old Singaporean Lee Helmi Iskandar Rosli, to devise their plan.
This involved Mok placing orders for the cigarettes to be shipped from Batam, Indonesia, to the Jurong Port.
He then instructed Lee, who was familiar with the shipping process as he had worked in various logistics companies, to receive the shipments of contraband cigarettes.
Devinderan was also tasked to collect the contraband cigarettes at the port and deliver them to other parts of Singapore.
To avoid checks on the truck as they drive out of the port, Devinderan introduced a 27-year-old Malaysian man, Rajeswaran Sandra, to Mok.
Rajeswaran made arrangements with a Certis Cisco senior protection officer to avoid conducting checks on the truck that Devinderan was driving.
Mok paid the officer money, through Rajeswaran, each time he assisted Devinderan in doing so.
The statement said that Mok, together with Rajeswaran and Devinderan, was found guilty of giving a sum of $4,500 to the officer.
The amount was given as a reward for facilitating the smuggling of contraband cigarettes out of the port between March 16 and March 23, 2016.
The statement said that Lee, Devinderan and Rajeswaran were sentenced to 36 months' jail each between November 2016 and February 2017 for their roles in the smuggling plan.
Lee was also fined $5,000, while Devinderan and Rajeswaran were sentenced to an additional three months' jail each for their corruption offences.
"Singapore adopts a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption and other criminal acts," the authorities said in the statement.
CPIB said that it takes a serious view of any corrupt practices and will not hesitate to take action against any party involved in such acts.
Those found dealing in contraband goods can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded and/or jailed for up to six years.