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S'pore singer fined S$30,600 for evading GST on luxury goods bought overseas to sell on Instagram

SINGAPORE — A Singapore singer and “personal shopper” was fined S$30,600 in the State Courts on Thursday (Oct 10) for evading Goods and Services Tax (GST) on luxury branded items such as handbags and shoes she brought into the country between 2015 and 2017 to sell on Instagram.

Nur Sarah Aqilah Sumathi, 35, better known as Sarah Aqilah, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraudulent evasion of GST, while five other charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

Nur Sarah Aqilah Sumathi, 35, better known as Sarah Aqilah, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraudulent evasion of GST, while five other charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

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SINGAPORE — A Singapore singer and “personal shopper” was fined S$30,600 in the State Courts on Thursday (Oct 10) for evading Goods and Services Tax (GST) on luxury branded items such as handbags and shoes she brought into the country between 2015 and 2017 to sell on Instagram.

Nur Sarah Aqilah Sumathi, 35, better known as Sarah Aqilah, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraudulent evasion of GST, while five other charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

She was crowned the winner of the Malay reality singing competition Anugerah, on Suria channel, in 2009.

In a press release on Thursday, Singapore Customs said that it had initiated investigations into Nur Sarah’s business activities of selling branded goods on Instagram based on information it had received.

The agency added that investigations revealed that Nur Sarah had travelled to Europe to purchase branded goods such as handbags, wallets and shoes and had brought these items back to sell online “without declaring the goods and paying GST”.

Two of the branded goods for sale posted on Nur Sarah’s Instagram account. Photo: Singapore Customs

In 2017, Nur Sarah expanded her business and started to provide personal shopping and concierge services for her clients during her travels overseas via her social media platforms, Singapore Customs said.

“Similarly, she did not declare and pay GST on the goods purchased overseas upon her return to Singapore,” the agency added.

Investigations established that Nur Sarah did not declare 141 branded goods which she had purchased overseas between June 2015 and November 2017 — worth over S$205,980 — for GST payment.

The total amount of GST evaded on the goods amounted to about $14,460.

In a plea of mitigation during the court hearing, Nur Sarah’s lawyer Sofia Bakhash said her client had already paid back the full amount of unpaid GST.

Ms Bakhash said although the value of the goods imported was relatively high, the profits Nur Sarah stood to make on the goods were “not significant”.

After being picked up by Customs officers on Jan 23, 2018, Nur Sarah had been forced to borrow S$80,000 from her sister to pay back clients who did not receive the goods they had paid for, she told the court.

Ms Bakhash said in written submissions that Nur Sarah, the mother of three young children, had faced “emotional and mental strain” as a result of the proceedings.

She said Nur Sarah’s husband was a real estate agent, and that his income had suffered a cut “due to his association” with her.

Nur Sarah had “suffered setbacks in her media appearances” as a result of publicity over the case, and now faced the possibility of losing that as a source of income, Ms Bakhash added.

Under the Customs Act, any person found guilty of evading GST is liable to a fine up to 20 times the amount of tax evaded or a jail term of up to two years or both.

Singapore Customs reminded the public said that it is the responsibility of all arriving travellers to make accurate and complete declaration of the dutiable and taxable items in their possession of duty and GST payment.

Members of the public with information on smuggling activities or evasion of Customs duty or GST can call the Singapore Customs hotline on 1800-2330000, email customs_intelligence [at] customs.gov.sg or use Customs@SG mobile app to report these illegal activities.

Related topics

GST Singapore Customs Sarah Aqilah fraud court crime fine

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