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Thread: Distressed Singaporean tourist whose phone was seized on Monday, 6/7/15 by NZ customs

  1. #1

    Distressed Singaporean tourist whose phone was seized on Monday, 6/7/15 by NZ customs

    Good afternoon,

    I am a tourist from Singapore who's decided to travel solo on a vacation in Wellington during my term break in University, visiting my friends.

    On the day I arrived, I declared my extra tobacco to be taxable. At the counter, I told them I forgot to mention that I had a packet of instant noodles in my luggage as well. This led to an extensive search of my entire luggage with everything taken out.
    I do not know if this is the normal practice to search for travellers who declare for instant noodles and tobacco but I am under their complete mercy.

    Upon finishing the search, the customs officer took a two swabs, one at my luggage, another at my hand carry.
    He took the swabs to an analyser which was quite a distance away and I could not see the exact process.

    The thing is. He came back with the news that my bag contained cocaine traces. COCAINE.
    I have NEVER touched any of that stuff in my life, and the bag was carried by me the entire journey. Back home, it was always stored in a cabinet and my family have never been one to do anything remotely close to drugs at all.
    (In Singapore, drug offences are very severe with serious implications, including the death sentence)

    I was at an utter shock where the officer then proceeded to take my bag off for a further search.

    He returned, saying he needed to do a complete scan of every single electronic material I have on hand, which included my handphone and external hard disk drive.
    He took off with my phone to a room and I had zero knowledge of the process that has been done or how my phone was being handled.

    The search then turned out a video of which there is a man whose head is getting sliced off.
    A stretch in my memory told me that the video was sent a long time ago(More than a year ago I recall), by a friend through whatsapp who wanted to remind us of the cruel acts that ISIS has been committing in the world.
    It was gruesome and cruel, the moment the knife touched the head, I recalled pressing the central button to return to the home screen and to berate my friend on whatsapp for the content. Subsequently I forgot entirely about it's existence until it surfaced right now.
    He then proceeded to seize the phone for further investigations

    I tried to explain the circumstances for the video to the customs officer who said he'd relate it to the next person who'll be in charge of it but we all know how words and explanations go missing when there is a courier service passing on the messages.

    The next day, I called up a number he gave me and he told me that the phone is now officially seized and my only chance at getting it back is if I write up an appeal letter after I receive my warrant of seized item which I will receive by 3 working days and even then the chances of me getting it back is very very slim, in his own words.

    I am extremely distressed as all my work, school and contact details are in that phone and right now I have no way to be contactable in New Zealand other than with my friends' help.

    Can anyone advice me on the following matter. And is it legal for them to seize my SIM card along with my charger as well? As I don't think those are objects that are covered under the same objectionable material.

    I sincerely thank all of you in advance.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    My suggestion is to contact the Embassy of Singapore in Wellington, if there is any.
    They are supposed to help you.
    If not, you can always file a complaint with the Customs and see what is the problem - I am sure that they will respond to your complaint if you explain it well.
    Good luck.

    P.S.

    There were some instances in which New Zealand police officers planted some evidences for wrongful conviction. But, I am not sure how often that this type of things happens in the Customs. If that happens, it will be a long fight to clear your name...
    Dear Yoda,

    I've contacted the High Commission of Singapore in Wellington and I was advised to follow through with the appeal and hope for the best as they do not have the authority to override anything in regards to the law and order of New Zealand.
    Right now, I've not even received my Notice of Seizure yet and it's been 3 working days already.

    You suggest for me to await my notice and make the appeal or should I head down to the office of the New Zealand Customs to make a complaint?

    I'll be leaving on the morning of 23rd so I've got around slightly less than 2 weeks to deal with this.

    Thank you!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    I don't think it is correct that the High Commission of Singapore has no influence on this matter. Once they are aware of it, this is one of the diplomatic issues that they can use when similar things happen in Singapore.

    You may be surprised, how these things can be used in diplomatic negotiation.

    Complaint to the Customs

    http://www.customs.govt.nz/about/con...complaint.aspx

    If this process did not resolve the issue, contact the Minister in charge.

    HON NICKY WAGNER
    CONTACT DETAILS
    WEB - www.nickywagner.co.nz
    EMAIL - nicky.wagner@national.org.nz
    PHONE -(04) 817 6633 (Parliament); (03) 365 8297 (Christchurch Central)

    If this Minister cannot do anything, then, you may want to contact the Foreign Minister (?) of Singapore for intervention.

    Good luck!
    Hi Yoda,

    You cannot possibly imagine how grateful I am right now for all the details and help you're offering to me.
    It makes me feel even more comforted knowing that you're doing all these for someone who's not even a local citizen and you don't have any relation to.

    I'll make a phone call down to the High Commission again, and I'll send in a complaint letter after I've drafted one out and written my appeal.
    My complaint will be about how long they're taking to send me the Notice of Seizure and how I was subjected to such stringent search processes without a prior conviction and I come from a completely clean legal background back in Singapore.
    Following which, I'll be seeking more advice from my parents back home as well. We might decide to post these all up on social media and contact our local news agencies to garner attention to this case. My dad's been advicing me to make a police report regarding my treatment, but I'll use the minister in charge's contact which you've given me first.
    We might have to call up our Ministry of Foreign Affairs back home as well because we aren't pleased as well with the lack of help a Singaporean is receiving overseas with these circumstances.

    I'll continuously update the progress of things here so that you'll know that all your help has been deeply appreciated and hopefully things can come to a closure as well.

    And on a sidenote, if you ever decide to head on to Singapore for a tour or vacation, please do contact me. I'd love to bring you around and show you what we have to offer! Im really, really grateful. Thank you!

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    Well, I have a friend who is also inviting me and my wife to visit Singapore.
    Thank you for the invitation.
    I think it is a good thing that you are using the diplomatic channel.
    In the end, this is a matter of the international relationship between New Zealand and Singapore.
    You can be certain that this matter will be closely watched by other countries.
    Hi Yoda!
    Sorry for the late reply, I've been busy and devising my strategy to deal with this matter.
    I've just received my notice of seizure this morning and I'm told I have the option to submit an appeal to the District Court and another letter to the Minister of Customs or Ministers delegated Officer. I assume they're referring to Hon Nicky Wagner but they're a little ambiguous so I'll be heading down to the customs service office personally tomorrow morning.
    I've crafted both an appeal and a complaint letter to be sent. I'll go ask for further details to confirm how I should proceed before deciding on anything else.

    If by the time I get back home and this is not resolved with the local authorities, I'll lodge an official complaint with my Ministry of Foreign Affairs and media especially on the false allegation of suspected cocaine.

    And yeah! No matter, I'll send you my contact details through inbox at the end of all these so should you contact me I'll be able to show you around!

  5. #5
    Member Beachedas's Avatar
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    Cool False positives at the airport

    I've watched several supposed detections for drugs in Queenstown where the machine itself seemed off the planet.. just like our bureaucrats.
    “The citizen's job is to be rude - to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of doubt”
    -John Ralston Saul-

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Yoda View Post
    Obviously, someone must be held to account for "the false allegation of suspected cocaine" in this case.
    It is my wish that the media in Singapore will pursue this matter.
    I am sure that this thread is read by some civil servants of New Zealand who are called, "seemed off the planet.. just like our bureaucrats."
    What do you (civil servants of New Zealand) think?
    Hahas yepps!
    Hi guys! Sorry for the long disappearance, have been swarmed with work since I was back at Singapore!
    Right now, they've got up till this coming thursday to address my issue. I've sent out my complaint letters to both the customs office and hon nicky wagner! I'll be seeking help from my Ministry of Foreign affairs if the appeal is unfavorable after they reply!

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