You didn’t think the customs issues were over right, after the article last week? Well, for a moment I did think it was over, it was just a question of finding a company that would import the confiscated cigars for me, pay the duty and return to the good life. Well, that part is true and I’m working on that with the help of a dear friend who owns a cigar business in South East Asia.
But no, earlier this week I was reminded of an old Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg tune, The Next Episode. La-da-da-da-dahh, a box with samplers that I have gotten from a Dutch cigar distributor for reviews while I spend some time in Amsterdam last month showed up at my doorstep. I had shipped it to myself since I had no more space in my luggage. When the mailman showed up and I saw the customs form with the word ‘cigars’ I quickly said: “please, take it back to the post office as this contains dutiable items.” I didn’t want to accept the package, as last time I accepted a box which included cigars, customs officers swarmed my place, searched the house and arrested me.
The mailman said that if he had to return the box, it would be shipped return to sender. That was not what I hoped for or wanted, so I tried calling customs. Yet Singapore customs has a very confusing and long menu, I simply couldn’t get true. The mailman left a not that there were no duties to be paid and since I had proof on my phone that I tried to reach out to customs, and not avoid duties, I accepted the box. I tried to reach out to the investigating officer from the previous case, but my calls were unanswered.
I was still scared that this would be a set-up and I would be arrested again. I grabbed the unopened box, bagged it up and set way to the Singapore Post Office to pay duty. If a shipment is intercepted by customs, you normally get a letter from Singpost that you can collect the package after payment of duties at the Paya Lebar post office. I figured I would walk up, explain my situation, pay duty and be on my way home. But no, it was impossible to pay duty as the system said that the package was cleared and no duty or gst had to be paid. I asked for that in writing, yet that was impossible, I had to call the office for that.
My wife, who was still at home, called the Singpost office and over the phone, she got the same story as me. Our case would be forwarded to “the team” and they would reach out to us to see if we could get in writing that no duties had to be paid for this package. After that, my wife tried calling the investigating officer again, this time she had more luck than me. And the investigating officer forwarded the matter to the right person, who called us back promptly. I had to email the weight of the cigars and the value, now I’m waiting for payment instructions.
I got into a lot of trouble for not declaring cigars, but Singapore makes it hard to pay duties too. And all the while the customs form clearly stated “cigars” and has a sticker that it was scanned. At least I now have the contact info for the right person, if something like this happens again.