Jail term doubled for man who supplied prohibited goods to North Korea
A director of three companies that supplied prohibited luxury goods worth almost $576,000 to North Korea has had his jail term doubled from three weeks to six weeks, following an appeal by the prosecution.
The fines handed down to each of the three companies were also more than doubled or tripled by the High Court on Monday (March 14).
Singaporean Chong Hock Yen, 61, was the sole decision maker of the three local firms - SCN Singapore, Sindok Trading and Laurich International - and held at least a 95 per cent shareholding in each entity.
Between December 2010 and November 2016, the companies supplied perfumes, cosmetics, watches and musical instruments to North Korea, grossing a total profit of more than $122,000.
Under Singapore law, enacted to give effect to United Nations sanctions against North Korea, anyone in the Republic or Singaporeans outside the country are barred from supplying or selling designated items to entities in the reclusive state.
In raising Chong's jail term, High Court judge Aedit Abdullah said: "A more substantial sentence is called for given that there was substantial harm to Singapore's standing and reputation, and the criminal activity occurred over a few years.
"Planning was present, indicating a higher degree of culpability. The fact that substantial profits were made should also push the sentence upwards."
Prosecutors had pointed to an impact statement by Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry, highlighting that Singapore came under increased scrutiny and criticism by the international community as a result of Chong's offences.
The judge found that the three-week jail term imposed on Chong by a district judge did not sufficiently calibrate the sentence in the light of the harm that was caused.
Justice Abdullah also said the fines imposed by the lower court on the companies were too low, and did not capture and distinguish between the punitive and disgorging aspects of monetary punishment.
"The punitive element must factor in both the harm and the culpability or responsibility for the actions. The disgorgement will generally be directly proportional to the economic or financial benefit derived," he said.
The judge raised the fine imposed on SCN from $120,000 to $311,000, which comprised $200,000 as the punitive component and $110,000 as disgorgement of profits.
The fine meted out to Sindok was increased from $10,000 to $23,000, which comprised $15,000 as the punitive component and $8,000 as disgorgement of profits.
Laurich's fine was upped from $10,000 to $30,000, which comprised a punitive component of $27,000 and $3,000 as disgorgement of profits.
Sindok is now known as BSS Global, while Laurich is now known as Gunnar Singapore.
Chong pleaded guilty in 2020 to eight counts of engaging in a conspiracy to supply luxury items to North Korea.
Another 35 similar charges were considered in sentencing.
The court heard that his three companies supplied luxury items to four entities in North Korea - Bugsae Shop, Korea Jangsaeng Trading Corporation (Pyongyang), MG Corporation and New Hope Joint Venture Corporation (Pyongyang).
Separately, his secretary, Lam Hon Lan, was fined S$6,000 for helping him, while North Korean accomplice Li Hyon was jailed four weeks.
Li Hyon had studied in Singapore before helping in the business of his father, Li Ik, who owned the Bugsae Shop department store chain in North Korea.
SCN supplied the bulk of the goods to Bugsae Shop by air and sea through China and by hand at airport check-ins.
Payment was made through front companies incorporated in territories such as Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.
Some of these offences were committed after Singapore's UN Act was amended to enhance the maximum punishment for flouting the sanctions.
In 2014, the maximum fine for individuals was increased from $100,000 to $500,000 and the maximum jail term was doubled from five years to 10 years. The maximum fine for corporate entities was increased from $100,000 to $1 million.