Customs: Malaysia not the only transit point for wildlife smuggling


KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is not the only transit point in South-East Asia being used by international syndicates to smuggle wildlife, says Customs Department director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy (pix).  

He said the perception that Malaysian ports were key transit points for wildlife smuggling was not true, but rather, this indicated Customs' many successes against smugglers here. 

"We know that smugglers are using other ports in neighbouring countries. I do not want to name but they are not taking the action that we are taking," he told reporters after witnessing the handing over of duties from retiring Sabah Customs director Datuk Janathan Kondok to his successor Datuk Hamzah Sundang, the current Kuala Lumpur International Airport director.

Subromaniam was referring to the successes by Customs in Sabah, which seized some 8,000 tonnes of pangolin scales on transit at the Sepangar port here and also the seizure of ivory through KLIA in July.

He stressed that the smugglers were not only using Malaysian ports, but also those in neighbouring countries, which go undetected.

On the seizure of RM100mil worth of pangolin scales, he confirmed that the scales were on transit to China but declined to reveal the country of origin.

"We are still investigating. I can't reveal much," he said, adding that they expect to charge a 43-year-old local suspect for smuggling banned goods.

However, he said that the Sabah Wildlife Department was also free to take action against the suspect under the state's wildlife conservation laws.

"We will act under Customs laws. The Wildlife Department can also act against him using protection laws. These are two separate offences so we have no problem with them taking action against the suspect," he added.

The Customs' seizures of elephant tusks and pangolin scales had raised concerns that Malaysia had become a transit point for wildlife parts that fetch high value in China and Indo-China countries.

Tusks and other body parts of elephants are prized for decoration as talismans and for use in traditional medicine, while pangolin scales were considered aphrodisiacs.