SINGAPORE: Singapore Customs on Monday (May 31) seized 53.2kg of duty-unpaid tobacco disguised as packaged tea leaves.
The contraband was detected on May 31 after a freight forwarding company handling the importation noticed discrepancies in a consignment within a container.
The company found two boxes containing duty-unpaid tobacco, which is used to make hand-rolled cigarettes.
The tobacco was packed in plastic packaging labelled as “tea leaves” instead of plastic cases as stated in the consignment note, said Singapore Customs in a media release on Thursday.
After the company alerted Singapore Customs, officers conducted an operation in the Lorong Chuan area and checked on a 48-year-old man who had collected the consignment.
The consignment was found at the staircase landing at the man’s place of residence. Singapore Customs officers also found rolling papers, filters and a cigarette rolling kit in a follow-up search in his residence.
The man and the alleged intended recipient of the consignment, a 42-year-old woman, were subsequently arrested.
Court proceedings are ongoing against both individuals, who are Chinese nationals.
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Singapore Customs said the operation resulted in the seizure of 53.2kg of duty-unpaid of loose tobacco. The total duty and Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded amounted to about S$17,500 and S$1,310 respectively.
Singapore Customs head of intelligence branch Yee Kwan Yew urged freight forwarding companies to be vigilant against suspicious consignments and to alert the authorities to prevent their services from being exploited for illicit activities.
Buying, selling, conveying, delivering, storing, keeping, having in possession or dealing with duty-unpaid goods are serious offences under the Customs Act and the GST Act.
Those found guilty can be fined up to 40 times the amount of duty and GST evaded, jailed for up to six years, or both.
Members of public with information on smuggling activities or evasion of customs duty or GST can contact Singapore Customs to report these illegal activities.