No lighting them up: A Customs officer packing seized cigarettes at a conveniece store during "Ops Outlet' in Jalan Nagasari, Kuala Lumpur.
KUALA LUMPUR: The fight against smuggled cigarettes has gone full swing with the Royal Malaysian Customs Department conducting raids nationwide since the beginning of the month.
The raids under Ops Outlet are part of renewed efforts by the department to curb the sales of smuggled cigarettes as it is costing the Government some RM1.9bil in uncollected taxes annually.
Customs deputy director-general (enforcement) Datuk Matrang Suhaili said that while this was the fifth year that Ops Outlet was being carried out, this time around the department was pushing for more drastic measures.
“We are looking for harsher punishment for offenders, such as compulsory jail time for those who would usually be slapped with just a fine. This issue is serious and we are treating it as such,” he said when contacted yesterday.
So far, 44 dedicated Ops Outlet strike teams involving 200 members have been formed to conduct checks on outlets suspected of selling illegal cigarettes.
One such raid conducted at a convenience store in Jalan Nagasari here yesterday saw cigarettes seized and the shopowner arrested, while two other raids conducted simultaneously in the city also yielded more illegal cigarettes.
Raids conducted in Selangor, Kelantan, Johor and Perak found 10 outlets selling the illegal cigarettes.
“So far, the results have been encouraging and we will continue in our efforts to remove these contraband from the streets,” said Matrang.
Concerned that Malaysia is now ranked number one in the world for contraband cigarettes, the Customs Department is also pressing for the maximum sentence against offenders.
Those caught selling smuggled cigarettes face a maximum of three years’ imprisonment, or a fine of up to 20 times the value of the seized item, or both, under Section 135(1)(d) of the Customs Act.
Repeat offenders face a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, and a fine of up to 40 times the value of the item, or both.