Former customs officer jailed 18 months for GST fraud
A courtroom gavel. (Photo: AFP)
SINGAPORE: A former Singapore Customs officer who was in charge of processing Goods and Services Tax (GST) refund claims made by tourists at Changi Airport has been fined and sentenced to 18 months’ jail for GST fraud, the Inland Revenue Authority (IRAS) and Singapore Customs said in a joint press release on Friday (Feb 9).
The authorities said 34-year-old Li Xiangqing had pocketed S$52,441.17 for himself between November 2011 and August 2012.
On Friday, Li pleaded guilty to 10 charges of fraudulently obtaining GST refunds amounting to S$30,761.63. In addition to his jail sentence, Li was fined S$92,284.89, three times the amount of tax defrauded.
While he was stationed at the GST Refund Inspection Counter at Changi Airport, Li’s modus operandi was to reject some tourists' claims for GST refunds. However, he would retain their electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) ticket. When passenger traffic was low, Li would then use the details to electronically process the GST refunds into his or his friend's credit card.
If the eTRS tickets did not show the tourist’s details, he would either process the eTRS ticket with tourist details from other tickets, or enter his ex-girlfriend’s details. The money would then be credited to his or his friend’s credit card.
Prior to this, Li had tricked his friend into applying for a credit card that he used to receive the fraudulent GST refunds. The money was also transferred to four credit cards that Li owned.
IRAS Senior Tax Prosecutor Norman Teo called for Li to be sentenced to 20 months’ jail as he had abused his position as a customs officer and committed fraud against a public institution. Mr Teo said Li’s actions were also deliberate and premeditated.
In mitigation, Li’s lawyer Lee Chin Seon said that his client had made full restitution of the money that he illegally obtained.
In her sentencing remarks, District Judge Ong Luan Tze said that Li had “embarked on a carefully planned enterprise to defraud the state”. Li will begin serving his sentence on Feb 23.
For his offences, Li could have been jailed for up to seven years.……
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