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More foreign workers transporting duty-unpaid cigarettes: Customs

More foreign workers transporting duty-unpaid cigarettes: Customs
Over 1,873 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized in the case of Chen Jie and Zheng Chao Lin. Photo: Singapore Customs

More foreign workers transporting duty-unpaid cigarettes: Customs

SINGAPORE — More foreign workers are helping to deliver duty-unpaid cigarettes to earn money on the side, Singapore Customs said on Thursday (Jan 12), disclosing that 21 such individuals were arrested for these offences last year.

These foreign workers usually post advertisements on social media platforms such as Shi Cheng BBS and WeChat to look for work during their free time. They are then hired by illegal cigarette syndicates to deliver duty-unpaid cigarettes. 

Some of these foreign workers also use their employer’s vehicles for such deliveries.

A Singapore Customs spokesperson said the agency started monitoring the trend from mid-2015 and over the past 18 months, 30 foreign workers had been arrested for getting involved in duty-unpaid cigarette activities.

On Dec 9 last year, a 36-year-old Chinese national was arrested for his suspected role in one case. 

Putting out an ad on social media platform QQ to look for extra work, he was hired by an unknown person to take delivery of a consignment containing duty-unpaid cigarettes — hidden in display stands — at a company building in Tuas. 

More than 2,400 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized later, and the duty evaded amounted to about S$186,900 and Goods and Services Tax (GST) of about S$18,800. Investigations into this case are ongoing, Singapore Customs said.

In another case, Chinese nationals Chen Jie, 35, and Zheng Chao Lin, 23, were sentenced on Nov 14 last year for being involved in a case where more than 1,870 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized. 

Chen was engaged by Zheng to deliver the cigarettes during his free time, and he used his employer’s van to get the job done. Some of the cigarettes were found hidden in consignments of play mats. The company van that Chen used was also seized.

The duty and GST evaded amounted to about S$145,380 and S$14,630 respectively. Chen was sentenced to four months’ jail and fined S$1,250, while Zheng was jailed four months and fined S$1,000.

Mr Yeo Sew Meng, assistant director-general of intelligence and investigation at Singapore Customs, warned that if foreign workers looking to earn extra money on the side through illicit activities are caught, they would be prosecuted and their work pass would be revoked. They would also be repatriated after they have served their sentence.

He also urged employers to closely monitor their employees’ use of company vehicles should they be allowed to drive them outside working hours, to prevent misuse and avoid any inconvenience and financial loss to the vehicle owners.

Singapore Customs warned that buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the Goods and 
Services Tax Act. 

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

Repeat offenders who are caught with more than 2kg of tobacco products will also face a mandatory jail term. Vehicles used in the commission of such offences are also liable to be confiscated.