Singapore - record number of smuggling attemps for 1st part of 2009..

August 10, 2009 - Singapore Government Immigration and Checkpoint Authority (ICA) thwarted a record number of smuggling attempts in the first half of this year.

The 23,800 smuggling (illegal, illicit, contraband) cases - which included weapons, cigarettes and animals - were the highest number handled by the officers since the ICA was set up in 2003. The figure also represented a 35 per cent spike from the 17,700 cases the ICA detected in the first six months last year. The ICA credited the spike to the skill and vigilance of its officers, and the deployment of technology like its X-ray screening systems in detecting the contraband items.

In releasing the figures on Friday, August 7th, ICA Commissioner Eric Tan, said: 'While these ingenious disguises usually involve contraband cigarettes today, we are mindful that other more sinister persons or items may similarly attempt to get into the Republic.' The ICA noted how smugglers have become more 'deceptive'.

In all, more than 730,000 packets, or nearly 15 million sticks of illegal cigarettes worth about $6.6 million have been confiscated at the checkpoints so far this year - nearly doubling last year's figures over the same period. Smokers are drawn to contraband cigarettes because of the huge price differential. A pack of illegal cigarettes costs $5 compared to about $10 for duty-paid cigarettes.

Singapore Customs is clamping down demand for illicit cigarettes at the street level in order to curb smuggling. Just in the first six months this year, a total of 3,084 buyers of contraband cigarettes from street peddlers were booked. The number caught was a four-fold increase over the same period last year. The number of peddlers caught also increased 20% from 381 in 2006 to 456 in 2007.

A little over a week (July 29, 2009) ago Singapore customs seized 100,000 packets of illegal cigarettes hidden among 473 television sets worth an estimated 1 million Singapore dollars (about 0.69 million U.S. dollars).

References: More 'deceptive' smugglers But record 23,800 cases foiled this year by Teh Joo Lin, Straits Times (A Singapore Press Holdings Website), 8/8/2009; Singapore seizes 100,000 packets of illegal cigarettes, Sina-English, 7/29/2009.

Singapore - some related news briefs: Singapore - new measures to discourage smoking among the young..; Singapore - more people were smoking in 2007 than 2004..; Singapore - Smoking increase despite public ban, price hike..; Singapore - Introduction of Tobacco Stamp to combat contraband...