Over $28m fine for mastermind behind S’pore’s largest syndicate involving duty unpaid alcohol
SINGAPORE – Two men masterminded a scheme that became the largest and longest-running syndicated operation involving duty unpaid alcohol uncovered in Singapore. The total amount of taxes evaded was about $25 million.
The syndicate diverted, for local sale, duty unpaid alcohol meant for consumption on board vessels calling at Singapore, fraudulently evading the excise duty as well as goods and services tax (GST) payable on the beverages.
One of the masterminds, Lim Wei Luen, now 41, has pleaded guilty to two charges under the Customs Act involving the fraudulent evasion of excise duty and GST totalling more than $3,114,858.16. Sixteen other charges were considered during sentencing.
On Thursday (July 14), he was fined a whopping $28,033,723.44, which is nine times the amount evaded.
Lim will spend six years and eight months behind bars if he is unable to pay the fine.
The other mastermind, Teo Tian Soon, also known as Muhammad Ridwan Teo, 56, was earlier sentenced to a year’s jail and a fine of nearly $48 million.
Several other offenders linked to the case, including Teo’s nephew Sheir Azman Mohamed Khalid, 33 and Vernon Quek Beng Yong, 47, were also dealt with in court earlier.
The court heard that the Singapore Customs allows alcohol to be supplied to vessels calling here for crew members to consume. The suppliers of such alcohol and other items – collectively known as “sea stores” – are known as ship chandlers.
The two main terminals in Singapore used for ship chandling purposes are Marina South Wharves (MSW) and Penjuru Terminal.
Ship chandlers buy the alcohol from suppliers whose stocks are held at licensed warehouses.
The warehouse will then make a declaration via the Singapore Customs’ online system for a cargo clearance permit with the prefix “OX” to be issued.
This allows the alcohol to be removed from the warehouse.
When the duty unpaid alcohol is sent to Penjuru Terminal or MSW, the OX permits must be endorsed by an auxiliary police officer (APO) on duty at the entrance gates.
He will mark the documents with his APO stamp and the duty unpaid alcohol can then be transported to the receiving vessel.