Escaped smuggler suspect causes 2hr lockdown at Woodlands Checkpoint

Suspected cigarette smuggler still at large after fleeing from immigration officers

A fleeing cigarette-smuggling suspect caused a two-hour lockdown at the Woodlands Checkpoint early yesterday morning.

The Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) said the man fled as immigration officers were making further checks on his lorry after he cleared immigration at about 2.50am.

The lorry was later found to contain about 5,000 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes.

In its statement, ICA said that checkpoint operations were temporarily suspended as officers searched for the suspect, a 31-year-old Malaysian named Asrul Nizam Jamil.

"The search for Asrul Nizam is ongoing," ICA added.

Witnesses told The New Paper that ICA officers and auxiliary police officers went on a vehicle to vehicle manhunt.

That led to thousands of commuters stuck in a massive jam that lasted beyond 5am.

In a Facebook post at 4.55am, while the lockdown was still in force, ICA told travellers to expect delays because of "enhanced checks... due to an ongoing operation".

Mr Ahmad Faizal, a 34-year-old IT manager who was returning to Singapore, called the TNP hotline after he was stuck for more than an hour.

He said: "All vehicles including motorcycles were halted. I was anxious because I did not know what was going on. It was chaotic, with vehicles honking everywhere."

A man who wanted to be known only as Atrez said he heard about the escaped suspect when he was being escorted by an Aetos officer to the toilet.

"I saw many officers hurrying around. Drivers came out of their cars, clueless about what was happening."

Bus services Causeway Link and Century Bus said some of their buses were delayed.

Commuters at Tuas Checkpoint also experienced delays till about 7am, though it is not clear whether this was related to the Woodlands incident.

The police had said on Tuesday that there would be a joint exercise with ICA at the Tuas Checkpoint from midnight till 2am yesterday.

In a separate case at Woodlands Checkpoint on Monday evening, a 29-year-old Singapore man was arrested for trying to import two sets of airsoft guns, a flick knife and a baton.

Follow-up investigations led to the arrest of two more men found in possession of airsoft pistols and other weapons, said the police and ICA yesterday.

Investigations are ongoing.

UPDATE: The ICA told The New Paper on Friday (July 6) the suspect had been arrested.