7 arrested for attempting to smuggle cigarettes

Five Singaporeans and two Indonesians have been arrested for attempting to smuggle duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore.

The joint operation by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) started on Aug 4, 2012 at about 10.15pm where a Singapore registered supply boat by the name 'Chong Han 02' was spotted behaving suspiciously, heading towards Sungei Jurong bridge, at the sea off Jurong River.

When the boat was near the bridge, the people on board were seen dumping boxes of duty unpaid cigarettes, wrapped in black plastic bags, into the water. At the same time, those on shore were seen entering the waters to retrieve the boxes.

Officers from the Police Coast Guard and ICA immediately moved in to stop them.

The seven suspects, aged between 24 to 52 years, were arrested as they tried to flee the scene.

The two Indonesians were the crew of the supply boat while the Singaporeans were on the shore to retrieve the boxes from the water.

They attempted to smuggle into Singapore a total of 22,900 packets of duty unpaid cigarettes, valued at about $240,303.

The total Excise Duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded is about $200,846.

The cigarettes and the supply boat have also been seized.

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

With effect from Jan 1, 2012, the minimum court fine for first-time and repeat offenders of tobacco-related offences has been raised to $2,000 and $4,000 respectively.

Repeat offenders who are caught with more than two kilogrammes of tobacco products will also face mandatory imprisonment.

Vehicles used in the commission of such offences may also be forfeited.

For possessing a packet of duty-unpaid cigarettes, buyers may face a minimum fine of $500 or prosecution in court.

spanaech@sph.com.sg

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