Singapore Customs officers arrest 4 Chinese nationals for selling duty-unpaid cigarettes via WeChat

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Since online shopping has become more convenient, criminals have also started to use the same platform to cheat a person or to sell illegal items. But, four men, who were selling duty-unpaid cigarettes via WeChat, caught by the Customs officials in the separate operation on Monday, October 8.

In a news release, the Customs department stated that the first alleged offender, who was carrying a paper bag containing 10 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes, arrested in Bedok Reservoir Road. After the initial investigation, the officers came to know that he was delivering those illegal items to the customers, with whom he talked over the mobile app WeChat.

Later, officers also conducted a raid at his residential place in Jalan Eunos, where they uncovered another 170 cartons and 77 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes.

Following the trail after the first arrest, the Customs officials raided an HDB unit in Ubi Avenue 2, where they not only found more than 206 cartons and 35 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes but also arrested two men, who were residing in the unit. These two men were also using WeChat to buy and re-sell those contraband cigarettes.

Meanwhile, during a separate operation, officers arrested another man, Zhu Yanqing, in Bedok Reservoir Road after he was spotted with a plastic bag and a haversack, which contained 12 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes.

The officers came to know that Zhu was also working as a delivery-boy and he was on his way to deliver the duty-unpaid cigarettes to customers he had solicited via WeChat. After a follow-up raid at his HDB flat in Pasir Ris Street 21, officers found 294 cartons and 59 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes from Zhu’s bedroom.

The release stated that all of these arrested offenders are Chinese nationals. While the investigation on first three offenders is going on, Zhu faced a punishment of 29 weeks jail term for storing and dealing with duty-unpaid cigarettes on Wednesday, October 10.

Customs officials seized a total of 692 cartons, 171 packets and 13 sticks of duty-unpaid cigarettes during these operations. The mobile phones of those four accused and more than $1,400 suspected to be the sales proceeds of the duty-unpaid cigarettes were also seized. “The total duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded in these cases amounted to about $60,560 and $4,440 respectively,” stated the release.

As per Customs Act and the GST Act, buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are considered as serious offences and the convict can face a fine up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded and/or a jail term up to six years.

The department has asked the members of the public to inform any such illegal activities immediately via Singapore Customs hotline number 1800-2330000 or email customs_intelligence@customs.gov.sg or through the Customs@SG mobile app (which can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play).

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