JOHOR BARU: At least four Malaysians were detained for allegedly trying to smuggle contraband cigarettes and chewing tobacco worth S$195,000(RM546,000) into Singapore in three separate raids within eight hours.
The latest arrests bring to 13 the number of Malaysians detained at the Woodlands checkpoint in July alone for various offences including smuggling of drugs, cigarettes and tobacco.
Many of the cases have been occurring during the morning rush hour and involve vehicles such as lorries, buses and modified cars.
Johor MCA Government Affairs Liaison bureau head Michael Tay said that he was not surprised about the increase in smuggling activities due to the weakening ringgit.
"A pack of cigarettes in Singapore costs between S$13 (RM36.40) and S$18 (RM50.40).
“So there are huge profits to be made due to the higher exchange rate," he said, adding that most of the cigarettes and tobacco being smuggled into Singapore were cheaper brands meant for foreign workers working in the island republic.
Tay stressed that enforcement agencies from both countries should share intelligence to identify smuggling syndicates instead of just targeting the "mules" who transport the goods.
In the latest case on July 30, a Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officer discovered 298 cartons of contraband cigarettes hidden in a modified car of a 32-year-old man at 6.30am.
ICA in a statement said that about an hour earlier, two Malaysian lorries were detained for further inspection during which three black plastic bundles containing chewing tobacco were hidden in the engines of one of the vehicles.
The officers also found more bundles of tobacco hidden in the engine compartment of the other lorry.
ICA officers also detained a 51-year-old Malaysian bus driver after they discovered 125 cartons of cigarettes and 2,400 sachets of tobacco in the luggage compartment at 11.15pm on July 29.
In all three cases, the ICA recovered 423 cartons of contraband cigarettes and 20,542 sachets of tobacco.