A recalcitrant offender was sentenced yesterday to four years' jail and a fine of $34 million for dealing in the largest amount of contraband cigarettes in Singapore to date.
Singaporean Ng Ghim Hong, 32, who dealt in more than 2,700kg of duty-unpaid cigarettes, will have to spend an additional two years and four months behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.
The court heard that he was convicted of a similar offence in 2009 for dealing in more than 1,000kg of contraband tobacco products. He was sentenced to 11/2 years' jail. In November last year, he pleaded guilty to one count of dealing in uncustomed goods with the intent to defraud the Government of the excise duty.
It all started in 2014 when one of his accomplices, Malaysian Mohd Nor Alif Ramlan, 28, got to know a man known only as "Ah Yang". Ah Yang, also a Malaysian, then offered him a job to unload bags of cotton cloth into a warehouse in Sungei Kadut. Alif was later told to liaise with Ng for the job.
Deputy public prosecutors Thiam Jia Min and Tan Weiming stated in court documents: "In the course of this unloading operation, Alif detected squarish and hard items inside the gunny bags and realised that they were duty-unpaid cigarettes. Despite knowing they were duty-unpaid cigarettes, Alif continued working for Ah Yang as he was in need of money."
In 2016, Ng then took Alif to the warehouse in Tuas and told the Malaysian to unload duty-unpaid cigarettes there. The court heard that Customs officers conducted an operation on Feb 22, 2017, to trail a container transported by a prime mover as it was suspected of containing contraband cigarettes. They followed it from PSA Tanjong Pagar Gate 1, and it arrived at the Tuas South Avenue 10 warehouse around 10.15am that day.
At around 6.40pm, officers spotted Alif and five other Malaysians removing pallets from the container and arrested the group. They also spotted Ng's black car in the vicinity and he was later arrested.
Alif was sentenced to three years' jail in March 2017 for his role in the crime.