Singapore

A*Star research fellow fined $7,000 for illegal GST refund

A research fellow at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) was fined $7,000 yesterday after he was convicted of two goods and services tax (GST) offences.

Chinese national Bai Jiaming, 31, pleaded guilty last Friday to getting the help of his then-colleague's father, Zhang Yaoqun, 61, to get a GST refund of $1,544 for a $23,600 Tiffany diamond ring bought by Bai.

He also admitted to getting a Prada bag and the ring from Zhang, after a GST refund of $1,792 had been claimed.

Bai was detained with the items when he tried to exit the Arrival North Transit Area of Terminal 3 at Changi Airport on March 11 for suspected misuse of a boarding pass.

Singapore has seen a rising number of people misusing boarding passes for reasons such as purchasing duty-free items or getting into the transit area to get closer to celebrities.

A total of 59 people were arrested in the first half of this year, up from 22 in 2015 and 23 last year.

The Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) tax prosecutor Charles Li said Bai did not qualify for a GST refund under the Electronic Tourist Refund Scheme (eTRS) as he was not a tourist.

However, Bai, at the suggestion of his colleague Zhang Baicheng, engaged the help of the 33-year-old's father to get the GST refund. The total GST amount involved was $248 for the handbag and $1,544 for the ring.

Bai was looking for a ring to propose to his girlfriend.

Bai and the Zhangs colluded to give false information to Iras. It was only late in the investigation that Bai admitted to lying. The Zhangs will be dealt with separately.

Iras said yesterday that it takes a serious view of false declarations for GST refunds under the tourist refund scheme.

There have been five cases of eTRS convictions and sentencing since 2014, with three this year. The maximum penalty for contravening the Goods and Services Tax (General) Regulations is a $5,000 fine. In default of payment, offenders can be jailed for up to six months.

An A*Star spokesman said Bai is no longer its employee and would not comment on his case.- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOSE HONG

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