Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore

Last updated on March 17, 2023

person using phone to shop for clothes online

You might have heard about shelves of infant milk powder being locked up by supermarkets to prevent thefts. It has been reported that the milk powder stolen is then resold on online marketplaces for profit.

But are you aware of the consequences of buying stolen milk powder from online marketplaces? Can you be prosecuted even if you are unaware that the milk powder had been stolen?

This article will cover the penalties for purchasing stolen goods in Singapore and highlight some precautions you can take to avoid inadvertently buying stolen goods. It will discuss:

Is It Against the Law to Buy Stolen Goods? 

Yes, it is a criminal offence to purchase stolen goods in Singapore. This is so even if you are unaware that the goods have been stolen.

In some cases, even if you are unaware of the fact that you are purchasing stolen goods, you may have reason to suspect that the item has indeed been stolen from elsewhere. If you do not exercise due diligence by conducting checks despite having suspicions about the source of the product, you would have committed a criminal offence, making you liable for prosecution.

For example, if you are purchasing an item from the online marketplace Carousell and it is listed at an incredibly low price that seems too good to be true, you would have reason to suspect the source of the product. The low price of the item could be an indicator that it might have been stolen or procured illegally, and you would have the responsibility of conducting further checks before proceeding to purchase the item.

In such a situation, examples of due diligence could include chatting with the seller to inquire about the source of the item and reporting suspicious listings to Carousell directly so that they can conduct the relevant investigations.

Do note that whether there is reason to suspect that an item has been stolen is highly dependent on the facts of each individual case. As mentioned above, an item listed on an online marketplace that is priced significantly lower than the market rate could be a sign that it has been stolen or obtained illegally.

In contrast, an item that appears to be sourced legitimately (i.e. being priced at market rate by verified sellers) would likely not raise any suspicions. In such cases, buyers have no reason to suspect the product and can be said to genuinely believe in the legitimacy of the item. Where buyers have no reason to believe that the item has been stolen, they would most likely not be held liable for buying it.

What are the Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods? 

According to section 411(1) of the Penal Code, those who buy stolen goods despite knowing that they have been stolen or having reason to believe that they have been stolen could face imprisonment for up to 5 years, a fine, or both.

If the stolen item in question is a motor vehicle, the buyer could face imprisonment for up to 5 years and a fine. Additionally, the buyer could also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence. 

As for what constitutes stolen goods, section 410(1) of the Penal Code states that “stolen property” includes items that have been obtained by theft, extortion, robbery, criminal misappropriation, criminal breach of trust and cheating. Hence, tins of infant milk powder stolen from supermarkets would clearly fall under this category since they have been obtained via theft. 

The following are other examples of cases where offenders have been penalised for stealing items and subsequently selling them:

  • A former engineer stole $62,000 worth of electronic devices such as laptops, iPads, monitors, docking stations and power adaptors from the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), which was his workplace at the time of the offence. He then sold some of the stolen goods on Carousell, raking in approximately $28,000. He was ordered by the court to return the stolen goods to their rightful owners and sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment.
  • A domestic worker stole a watch worth around $1,000 from her employer and put it up for sale on Carousell. She was eventually discovered by her employer and the court sentenced her to 7 months’ imprisonment.

What are the Penalties For Sellers Who Sell Stolen Goods?

Sellers who sell stolen goods might be subject to harsher penalties as compared to buyers of such goods. According to section 413 of the Penal Code, people who habitually deal in property that they know or have reason to believe is stolen property could face up to 20 years’ imprisonment, along with a fine.

In addition, it is important to note that stealing is in itself a criminal offence under section 378 of the Penal Code, and it could warrant criminal prosecution. Offenders could face imprisonment of up to 3 years, a fine, or both. To find out more about the offence of theft, do refer to our article which covers the penalties for committing theft in Singapore.

Furthermore, online shopping platforms and marketplaces often have their own measures in place to regulate listings and ensure the legitimacy of sellers. For example, Carousell prohibits sellers from offering stolen items for sale, and the company has stated that it will not hesitate to take action such as suspending accounts of sellers upon detecting stolen goods being sold on the platform.

Under Lazada’s Protection Policy, the platform has stated that it reserves the right to prevent payment from being released to sellers who are being investigated for suspected fraud, abuse or illegal activity. As for Shopee, which also prohibits the sale of stolen goods, sellers may be subject to a range of sanctions such as the deletion of listings, limits placed on account privileges, suspension of accounts and even legal action.

Are There Any Best practices For Buyers to Take Note of to Avoid Purchasing Goods That are Likely to be Stolen?

With the sheer number of listings on online marketplaces and shopping platforms, it can be difficult to discern the legitimacy of such items. Here are some practical measures that you can take to guard against accidentally purchasing stolen goods online:

  • When shopping online, check out the seller’s ratings and reviews before making purchases. Sellers with a substantial number of poor reviews or no reviews at all could be “red flags” indicating suspicious activity.
  • Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. As mentioned above, if an item costs significantly lower than the market rate, it could come from dubious sources.
  • Stay up to date with recent news on stolen goods. Alternatively, if you have reason to suspect that certain goods might be stolen, you could do a quick search online to check whether there have been any recently reported thefts regarding the item in question or alerts issued by the relevant manufacturers.

What are Some Practical Steps Buyers Should Take If They Realise They have Purchased Stolen Goods?

If you discover that you have inadvertently purchased a stolen item, you should first attempt to gather as much information about the transaction and seller as possible. For example, if the transaction had taken place on Carousell, note down the seller’s username, listing details and other relevant information, and take screenshots of your chat history with the seller. If you had met up with the seller in person, try to recall the seller’s physical appearance, or any other defining features that could be useful in identifying the seller. 

You can then file a report with the relevant online platform. Carousell has a “Report User” and a “Report Listing” function in their mobile application, enabling you to quickly inform them about fraudulent transactions.

Since buying and selling stolen goods is a criminal offence as explained above, you should also report the matter to the police without undue delay and provide them with the evidence you have gathered. The police will look into the potential criminal offences disclosed and seize the item if necessary. Upon investigation, the police may then seek an order from the court to return the item to the victim and the offender may be prosecuted accordingly.

To conclude, buying and selling stolen goods are criminal offences in Singapore. Buyers of stolen goods could be committing an offence even if they are unaware that the items in question have been stolen. Hence, it is important to exercise caution, especially when shopping online.

If you have been charged with the offence of purchasing stolen goods, it is advisable to consult a criminal lawyer who can assess the situation and provide guidance on the merits of your case, along with the next steps to take.

Do refer to our list of highly rated criminal lawyers in Singapore to start your search. You can also use our Find a Lawyer service to assist you in finding a criminal lawyer that best suits your needs.

Arrest and Investigation
  1. Singapore’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: What Does It Mean?
  2. What is the Appropriate Adult Scheme in Singapore?
  3. Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
  4. Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
  5. Seized Assets in Money Laundering Investigations: What Happens To Them?
  6. Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
  7. What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
  8. What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
  9. How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
  10. What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
  11. Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
  12. Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
  13. Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
  14. Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
  15. Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
  16. What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
  17. Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
  18. What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
  19. "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
  20. Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
  21. Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
  22. Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
  23. Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  24. Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
  25. Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
Bail
  1. The Essential Guide to Bail and Personal Bonds in Singapore
Prosecution
  1. What is Private Prosecution?
  2. Magistrate’s Complaints, Private Summons and Private Prosecutions in Singapore
  3. Prosecutorial Discretion in Singapore
  4. Composition Offers and Fines for Criminal Offences in Singapore
  5. Plea Bargaining in Singapore: All You Need to Know
During Criminal Proceedings
  1. Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
  2. Legal Defences in Criminal Law: Special Exceptions
  3. Giving False vs. Wrong Evidence: What’s the Difference?
  4. Writing Character References For Court: What’s Their Purpose?
  5. When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
  6. Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
  7. TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
  8. How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
  9. The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
  10. Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
  11. What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
  12. Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
  13. Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
  14. When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
  15. Legal Defences in Criminal Law: General Exceptions
  16. Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
  17. Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
  18. Claiming Trial as an Accused
  19. Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
  20. The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
  21. Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
  22. Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
After Criminal Proceedings
  1. Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
  2. Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
  3. Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
  4. Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
  5. Presidential Clemency in Singapore
  6. Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
  7. Criminal Records in Singapore
  8. Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
  9. Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
Types of Sentences After Committing an Offence
  1. Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
  2. How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
  3. Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
  4. Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
  5. Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
  6. How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
  7. Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
  8. Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
  9. Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
  10. 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
  11. Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
Being a Victim
  1. Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
  2. Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
  3. Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
  4. Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
  5. Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
  6. Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
Offences Against the Human Body
  1. Voluntarily Causing Hurt Penalties in Singapore (Non-Arrestable)
  2. Murder vs Culpable Homicide in Singapore (and Penalties)
  3. Is Suicide Illegal in Singapore? Will I Be Punished for Trying?
  4. Kidnapping Scam: Penalties & Responding to a ‘Kidnap Call/Text'
Sexual Offences
  1. How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
  2. BDSM Gone Wrong: Potential Legal Issues with Sexual Kink Practices
  3. The Offence of Attempted Rape in Singapore: Law & Penalties
  4. Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
  5. Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
  6. Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
  7. Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
  8. Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
  9. Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
  10. Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
  11. Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
  12. What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
  13. What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
  14. Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
  15. Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
  16. Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
  17. STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
Vice-Related Offences
  1. Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
  2. Are Sex Toys and Sex Dolls Legal in Singapore?
  3. Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
  4. Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
  5. Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
  6. Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
  7. Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
  8. Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
  9. Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
  10. Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
  11. The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
Property Offences
  1. What is a Protected Area and Place in Singapore?
  2. Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore
  3. Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
  4. Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  5. Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
  6. Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
  7. Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
  8. Penalties for Littering Offences in Singapore
Cybercrime
  1. What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
  2. Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
  3. Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
  4. Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
  5. Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
White-Collar Crimes
  1. Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
  2. Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
  3. All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
  4. A Guide to Singapore’s Anti-Money Laundering Laws
  5. 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
  6. Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
Road Offences
  1. Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
  2. DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
  3. What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
  4. Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
  5. Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
  6. Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
  7. Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
  8. Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
Animal-Related Offences
  1. Taxidermy of Animals in Singapore: Is It Legal?
  2. Legal and Illegal Pets in Singapore (HDB/Private Property)
  3. Is It Illegal to Feed Stray Animals in Singapore?
  4. Animal Abuse in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report Abuse
Offences Relating to Public Peace and Good Order
  1. Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
  2. Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
  3. Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
  4. Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
  5. Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
  6. Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
  7. Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
  8. Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
Gang and Riot-related Offences
  1. Penalties for Unlawful Assembly and Rioting in Singapore
  2. Is Joining a Gang Illegal in Singapore?: Being Recruited and Penalties
  3. Organised Crimes: Penalties/Orders Syndicates Face in Singapore
Marriage-Related Offences
  1. Bigamy: Is It Legal to Marry a Married Person in Singapore?
  2. Marriage Offences in Singapore Involving Minors, Same-Sex, Etc.
  3. What are Sham Marriages and Are They Illegal in Singapore?
Certificate of Clearance
  1. How Do You Apply for a Certificate of Clearance in Singapore?
Other Criminal Offences
  1. Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
  2. Misusing the Singapore Flag and Other National Symbols
  3. What are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore?
  4. Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
  5. Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
  6. Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
  7. Laws to Tackle High-Rise Littering in Singapore
  8. Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
  9. Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
  10. Is Dining & Dashing Illegal in Singapore?
  11. Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
  12. What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
  13. What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
  14. Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
  15. Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
  16. Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore