Singapore
10 boxes containing the live birds ICA

Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said on Wednesday have seized thousands of chewing tobacco packets, as well as 121 live birds from a Malaysian-registered tour bus at Woodlands Checkpoint on Monday.

ICA said in a press release that the bus was directed for checks at about 6am on Feb 26. The officers found three black bundles in red plastic bags that contained 4,500 sachets of chewing tobacco. The authority added that the bags were found in a luggage compartment at the right side of the bus.

The sachets of chewing tobacco were referred to the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for investigation.

In addition to this, ICA have also found 121 live birds concealed in 10 boxes in another compartment of the bus. The seized birds included red-whiskered bulbuls, white-rumped shamas, spotted doves and Fischer's lovebirds - a protected species under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

ICA said that the driver, birds and bus were handed over to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore for further investigations. On Wednesday, the man was charged in court.

According to ICA, if anyone is convicted of importing chewing tobacco, which is prohibited in Singapore, he will be liable to a fine of up to S$10,000, up to six months' jail or both for the first offence.

However for a second or subsequent offence, the punishment is a maximum fine of S$20,000, up to 12 months' jail or both.

CITES permits are required for any import, export and re-export of CITES species, including their parts and products. Under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, offenders can be fined up to S$50,000 per scheduled species (not exceeding a maximum aggregate of S$500,000) and/or imprisonment of up to two years upon conviction.

"In addition, the import of animals and birds without a licence is an offence," AVA said. It added that offenders are liable to a fine of up to S$10,000, a maximum of 12 months' jail or both.

Anyone who causes unnecessary pain to an animal may suffer a fine of up to S$15,000, a maximum 18 months' jail or both.

ICA said: "Our borders are our first line of defence in safeguarding Singapore's security. The security checks are critical to our nation's security. The ICA will continue to conduct 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.

The authorities have strongly advised the public not to purchase or bring prohibited tobacco products into Singapore. HSA encourages members of the public who have information on the illegal import, distribution, sale or offer for sale of prohibited tobacco products to call its Tobacco Regulation Branch at Tel: 6684-2036 or 6684-2037 during office hours (9:00 am to 5:30 pm, Monday to Friday).