Mastermind of illegal cigarettes syndicate fined S$30 million, jailed

SINGAPORE: The leader of a contraband cigarettes syndicate was sentenced on Thursday (Mar 22) to five years and three months’ jail, and fined S$30 million for smuggling duty-unpaid cigarettes into Singapore.

Singapore Customs and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said in a joint media release that the man, 50-year-old Mok Chee Kin, was also given another five months’ jail term for bribing a Certis Cisco officer.

Jurong port ciggies syndicate

The sentence is the highest handed down by the State Courts for such offences. The previous record was a three years and six months’ jail, and a S$14 million fine given to another offender in 2014.

As Mok did not pay the court fine, he will serve a default sentence of another 30 months’ jail, bringing the total imprisonment term to eight years and two months, the authorities said.

Mok, who is stateless, was nabbed in 2016 after an operation by Singapore Customs at Jurong Port that began on Mar 30. 

Jurong port ciggies

Customs officers were looking out for a white truck which they suspected was being used to smuggle contraband cigarettes out of the port.

Upon spotting the truck at a car park, the officers moved in and uncovered 10,500 cartons of cigarettes in the vehicle.

The total duty and GST evaded amounted to about S$898,600 and S$87,230 respectively, the authorities said.

Investigations revealed that Mok had placed an order for the cigarettes to be shipped from Batam, Indonesia, to Jurong Port.

Mok instructed Lee Helmi Iskandar Rosli, a 31-year-old Singaporean, to receive the shipment at the port.

Another Singaporean, 36-year-old truck driver Devinderan Arajinan, was tasked to collect the cigarettes at the port and deliver them to other parts of Singapore.

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Lee and Devinderan were both arrested during the raid. 

Mok and another man, 27-year-old Malaysian Rajeswaran Sandra, were nabbed a few days later. The latter’s role in the syndicate was to give bribes to a Certis Cisco senior protection officer to ensure that Devinderan would not be stopped for checks when he makes his exit out of Jurong Port.

Rajeswaran did this on two previous occasions, paying the officer a total of S$4,500.

Stateless man jurong port ciggs

Lee, Devinderan and Rajeswaran were sentenced to 36 months’ jail each by the State Courts between November 2016 and February 2017 for their various roles in the smuggling offences.

Lee also received a fine of S$5,000, while Devinderan and Rajeswaran were given an additional three months’ jail each for their corruption offences.

Mok had a previous conviction for the same offence; he was sentenced to seven months’ imprisonment in 2011.  

As a repeat offender, Mok was liable to an enhanced punishment under the Customs Act, the media release said, which includes a mandatory jail term of up to six years, as well as a heavier fine of no less than 30 times the duty or Goods and Services Tax (GST) evaded.