Singapore: Megaton Shipping fined S$5,000 for role in smuggling cigarettes

Cigarette smuggling (Representational picture) ICA

Megaton Shipping, a cargo forwarding company was found guilty of providing false information to get an import permit from Singapore Customs department and was fined with S$5,000 on Wednesday.

Officials said the shipping firm provided false information in May 2017 to smuggle cigarettes from Singapore to another country.

Both Singapore Customs and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority said the containers which had cigarettes was mentioned as "T-shirts Singles and Other Vests Knitted or Crocheted of Other Textile Materials for Men or Boys."

After an investigation, officers found that the Megaton Shipping was hired by an unknown person, who was assigned to ship it from Ho Chi Minh City to the UK via Singapore on May 8, 2017.

A logistics company was asked to make an import permit by Megaton Shipping on May 29. Before re-exporting to the UK, the containers were removed from the Keppel Free Trade Zone, which is a multi-tenanted, modern cargo distribution complex comprising warehousing and office facilities, with the permit to a bonded warehouse for storage.

The authorities said soon the officials detected images of the 40-foot container through scanning and in the place of men's clothing they found 39,900 cartons of cigarettes at the Tanjong Pagar Scanning Station on June 2, 2017.

Since the Megaton Shipping has provided false information to the logistics company, it has committed a crime under Singapore Custom Act for causing an untrue import declaration to be made to the customs, said officials.

Yeo Sew Meng, the assistant director-general for intelligence and investigation said they believe that these cigarettes were intended to be smuggled to another country through Singapore.

In addition to that, he mentioned that the customs does not allow the use of the port and logistics facilities for smuggling. Meng said that the officials will continue to work proactively with the local partner agencies and international counterparts to figure out such illicit activities.

He advised that the companies should conduct due diligence to secure themselves from being involved in such crimes. If those involved are found guilty, they can be fined with a maximum of S$10,000 or the equivalent of the amount of customs duty if the amount is more, including a jail term of up to 12 months based on the seriousness of the violation of law.

Singapore has seen the number of smuggling and sale cases of e-cigarettes, which are banned, are on the rise and the demand for them is very high in the black market. As the demand increases, smugglers have adopted various ways to supply it for the needy ones at a high price.

Health Sciences Authority (HSA) statistics show that 15,000 cases of electronic cigarettes, including smuggling and illegal sale, have been reported in three years from April 2014 to March 2017.

This article was first published on April 4, 2018