Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Contraband Cigarettes Now Carry A Fine Of $500 A Packet - And Some Of The Lengths The Smugglers Will Go!

Smugglers of duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore, are nothing if not creative. From employing methods such as concealing the contraband smokes within laminated floorboards, to covering the load with live prawns, and even earlier this month hiding the illegal load in the spare tyre compartment of a car boot and then filling the boot with live frogs (apparently due for consumption). Needless to say, the frogs were no longer alive by the time the vehicle was inspected at the Woodlands immigration checkpoint.

The amount of money that these 'couriers' receive for a load of contraband cigarettes is a pittance in comparison to the potential life-changing fine/s now being imposed. For the consumption-frog offender, the total payment he would have received upon delivery was just RM600 (S$251).

Under new regulations announced this week by Singapore customs, even first-time offenders caught with duty-unpaid cigarettes anywhere on the island will now be fined $500 per packet.

A per packet fine is described by customs as a 'composition sum', and was initially implemented in hotspots such as Geylang and Yew Tee in Oct 2007. The 'composition sum' will now be extended throughout the island, as announced in the Singapore Customs press release on Monday of this week.

Before the new guidelines were released, first-time offenders would have previously been fined anywhere between $200 and $500 per packet, and as well as this standardisation of regulation, Singapore Customs will also be increasing the number of officers to focus on the demand and supply of the illegal smokes.

It is important to note that for second or subsequent convictions, offenders can be jailed for up to two years, and fined. They also face further fines based on the amount of GST evaded.

In a statement, ICA said it has tightened security checks on passengers and vehicles at the checkpoints to prevent attempts to smuggle in undesirable persons, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contrabands.

"The same methods of concealment used by contraband smugglers may be used by terrorists to smuggle arms and explosives to carry out attacks in Singapore," it added.

ASIDE: Remember, death sentence for importing cannabis... how much for the terrorists or explosives, I wonder??


On July 7th this year, officers from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) were inspecting a consignment of live frogs in the boot of a car at Woodlands. They first became suspicious, because they expected the frogs to be full of life and jumping about. They had good reason for their suspicion - all the poor little fellas had all 'croaked it' (pardon the pun).

Upon closer look, the officers uncovered 44 cartons and 59 packets of contraband cigarettes hidden in the spare tyre compartment of the car boot.

The alleged 'importer' was a 45-year-old Malaysian man who had declared the consignment as 'live consumption frogs'.

After being caught out, the offender admitted that they were in fact contraband cigarettes, for which he would have to pay $3,832 in customs duty and GST (lucky the new regulations were not in force then!!!)

The suspect had delivered his vehicle at Johor Bahru in the evening, and then picked it up again 30 minutes later. He was due to drive the smokes and frogs to Ang Mo Kio. For his efforts (if successful) he would have been paid the paltry sum of RM600.


The number of duty-unpaid cigarettes seized fell by 36 per cent, compared to the same period in 2007. The number of buyers and sellers caught also dropped by 17 per cent and 34 per cent respectively.

From Jan to June 2008, over 1.6 million packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes were seized by the authorities.

The number of sellers or illegal street peddlers apprehended and fined was 299, compared to 456 for the first half of last year.

The number of buyers for whom the offence was compounded also dipped from 3,084 in the first half of 2007, to 2,549 over the same period in 2008.

Those arrested and charged in court for conveying, storing and distributing contraband cigarettes to illegal street peddlers remained constant at 655 (compared to 653 last year).

In a recent operation, customs officers uncovered 216,700 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes from trucks, vans and illegal stores. Also, a full container load of cigarettes (233,500 packets) was found at a Lower Delta Road industrial park in June (unpaid duty and GST of these finds amounts to a staggering $3.4 million).

Singapore Customs said it will deploy more enforcement manpower to carry out surveillance and patrols at hotspots and heartland areas.

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