Luxury goods fugitives: 100% checks on outgoing vehicles will severely worsen traffic, disrupt trade flows, says ICA

SINGAPORE — Conducting checks on all outgoing vehicles from Singapore’s land checkpoints will have a significant impact on trade and travel, and could also “severely worsen” the departure traffic situation, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).  

“While the checks may not be 100 per cent, they are not minimal or negligible in number,” said the authority.  

ICA was responding to TODAY’s queries on Saturday (July 23) about how a couple fled Singapore after allegedly failing to deliver luxury watches and bags to their buyers.

The fugitives — Singaporean Pi Jiapeng and Thai national Pansuk Siriwipa — had left the country by hiding in the container compartment of a lorry, and were assisted by a 40-year-old Malaysian man. 

TODAY also asked if ICA is considering a review of its policy of not checking 100 per cent of outgoing vehicles at the border checkpoints.

In response, ICA said that Singapore’s land checkpoints are one of the busiest land crossings in the world, and about 200,000 travellers depart daily prior to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Any delay in clearing departure traffic during peak hours can cause traffic tailback onto the roads inland, such as the Bukit Timah Expressway for Woodlands Checkpoint and the Ayer Rajah Expressway for Tuas Checkpoint, said ICA.

It added that such delays would also disrupt trade flows between Singapore and Malaysia.

ICA said that it adopts a “risk management approach” to departure clearance screening of people, goods and conveyances and takes an “arrival-centric approach” to border security, which ICA added is a common practice internationally and done to optimise resources. 

This is why the approach to departure checks changes based on Singapore’s prevailing security posture, ICA said in its response. 

“For example, enhanced checks will be conducted on departing conveyances in the aftermath of major security incidents to prevent the perpetrators from leaving Singapore,” said ICA. 

On the other hand, ICA subjects all arriving conveyances to 100 per cent checks in order to safeguard Singapore’s borders “against the entry of smuggled, illegal or undesirable persons and goods, and especially security sensitive items”.

This is a key priority for the authority, it said. “A more balanced approach has therefore been adopted,” said ICA. 

Explaining its current approach, ICA said it conducts regular and random operations on departing conveyances on a day-to-day basis. The checks include car boots, the luggage and engine compartments of buses, as well as the cabin and container compartments of lorries.

Targeted and thorough checks may also be conducted on departing traffic based on risk-profiling and information received, it said.