KOTA KINABALU: The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) foiled an attempt to smuggle in 84,500 packs of contraband cigarettes worth RM455,000 at Beluran on Sunday (May 19), a day after seizing 3,500 packs in Tawau.
The Esscom team also apprehended five Malaysian men during the special operation at Sapi Nangoh Road checkpoint at around 5.45pm.
Esscom commmander Datuk Hazani Ghazali, in a statement said each suspect was driving a different vehicle from Kota Kinabalu's heading towards Sandakan when they were stopped.
"Acting on a public tip-off, the team inspected five special utility vehicles (SUVs).
"The drivers were aged between 18 and 46. Upon inspection, the vehicles were found loaded with cigarettes of various brands.
"We believe these were being smuggled in from Indonesia to be sold in Sabah's east coast, particularly the Sandakan district, based on the modus operandi and confessions from the five suspects," he added.
Hazani said all suspects and seized items were taken to Beluran district police headquarters and the case is being investigated under the Customs Acts.
Also confiscated were the five SUVs, estimated to be worth RM250,000.
The total value of items seized, including the vehicles and unpaid customs tax, are estimated at more than RM1mil, he added.
"Esscom will continue to intensify monitoring at all areas suspected to be routes used by criminals by conducting special exercises regularly," said Hazani.