Singapore Customs Foils Attempts to
Smuggle In Controlled Goods

To ensure the integrity of the trading system, Singapore Customs adopts a
risk-assessment framework to identify 'suspicious' consignments for checks before they enter Singapore. Working closely with other controlling agencies, Singapore Customs recently thwarted attempts by two importers to smuggle controlled goods into the country.

Over 5,600 pieces of snake skin were seized from a consignment originating from Batam, Indonesia.

An importer thought he could skirt the law by smuggling in snake skins and falsely declaring them as jackets. In another case, a uniform manufacturer tried to sneak illegal soil into Singapore, among its usual shipment of textile materials and umbrellas.

What these importers did not know was that Singapore Customs officers were already tracking their
'suspicious' consignments.

Singapore Customs worked closely with the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to intercept the two targeted consignments at the checkpoints. These cases are currently being investigated by the Agri-Food & Veterinary
Authority (AVA).


Four species of snake skins were found. From top: python, oriental rat snake, cobra and water snake skins. The first three species are endangered and protected by law.

Risk assessment is a cornerstone in ensuring trade security. By proactively sifting out high-risk consignments before they come into Singapore, Singapore Customs keeps a tight control on illegal cargo while facilitating the smooth flow of legitimate goods in and out of
the country.

Risk assessment officers from Singapore Customs work closely with controlling agencies such as the AVA, Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) to deter and apprehend traders who violate import and export regulations. Controlling agencies are the authorities that provide permission for the import of controlled goods like pharmaceuticals and animal products. The whole-of-government approach enables a comprehensive response to complex enforcement challenges.

In 2011, the collaboration between agencies led to the detection of an NEA case involving lead battery waste falsely declared as scrap metal, and a HSA case involving sex drugs falsely declared as toys.


On 7 August 2012, Singapore Customs and ICA officers thwarted an attempt to illegally import more than 5,600 pieces of snake skin into Singapore. This is the largest consignment of snake skin uncovered by Singapore authorities in five years.

Singapore Customs identified a consignment declared as jackets imported from Batam, Indonesia, for examination. ICA officers conducted checks on the lorry carrying the goods at Jurong Scanning Station and uncovered four bales of snake skin.

The consignment included 5,634 pieces of python, cobra, oriental rat snake and water snake skins and had a street value of nearly S$5,000. Of these, over 2,100 pieces (python, oriental rat snake and cobra skins) are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Singapore is a signatory of the treaty, which protects endangered species through the imposition of trade restrictions.

Under Singapore's Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act, the export and import of snake skins protected under the Convention must be accompanied by CITES permits from the exporting and importing countries, which is issued by AVA in Singapore.

As it is an offence to import or export CITES-protected species without a permit from AVA, offenders can be fined up to $500,000, jailed for up to two years, or both.


The illegal bags of soil were found in a container with textile material and umbrellas.

Singapore Customs targeted for examination a container from Huangpu, China, that was declared to contain textile material and umbrellas by a uniform manufacturer. When ICA officers intercepted the 20-foot container at Tanjong Pagar Gate on 22 August 2012, they discovered something else.

A total of 823 bags of soil, commonly used for growing plants, were found in the container.

The import of soil into Singapore is regulated under the Control of Plants Act – Plant Importation Rules. Under the Act, the import of soil must be covered by a valid import permit issued by AVA. A phytosanitary certificate from the exporting country is also required to certify that the soil is free from any plant parasites and pests, to prevent their introduction into Singapore.

Failure to comply with these requirements can lead to a $10,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to three years.

A uniform manufacturer tried to smuggle 823 bags of soil from Huangpu, China, into Singapore.

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