MIRI: Compounds and fines imposed on sellers of illicit cigarettes are no longer effective in deterring the trade of these smuggled items.
Customs Department deputy director-general Datuk Matrang Suhaili said traders of smuggled cigarettes could not feel the pinch anymore from compounds and fines imposed as they had become too financially loaded from the illegal profits they were making from the contraband items.
He said the department would no longer seek compounds or fines against those caught trading in illegal cigarettes but would instead haul them to court and seek harsher punishment in the form of jail terms from the court.
“We are seeking heavier punishment for traders of these contraband cigarettes since the usual punitive actions of compounds or fines are no longer effective,” he said when launching the Ops Pacak against illegal cigarettes and alcohol here yesterday.
“We are losing up to RM1.84bil in lost tax revenue every year because of smuggled cigarettes.
“We have beefed up not only our enforcement raids in the cities and towns but also increased our manpower at the border points.”
Matrang said they were getting help from the police, army, Rela and Immigration Department to help out.
“We urge members of the public to give their cooperation to tackle the illegal trade of cigarettes and alcohol in the places where they live or work,” he said.
In Sarawak, the sales of illicit cigarette were most widespread in Miri, Kuching, Sibu and Bintulu, he said, adding that Sarawak had such a long coastline and vast land boundary that had many points where smugglers brought in bulks of contraband goods daily.
The department was working with other enforcement agencies to carry out integrated strikes at hotspots for smuggling and trade of these items, he added.