SEPANG: Syndicates are now trying to smuggle cigarettes into the country via air to avoid detection, said the Customs Department.
These syndicates have overhauled their modus operandi since Customs introduced the illicit tobacco and alcohol task force two months ago to monitor smuggling at the ports in Klang.
Assistant director-general for Central Zone Customs Datuk Zulkurnain Mohamed said they seized at least 8.84 million cigarettes coming in by air since last month.
“We first detected a shipment of 2.94 million cigarettes on Aug 6.
“The consignment was falsely declared as spare parts, and came in from Singapore, ” he told reporters at the KLIA Customs Department Headquarters here yesterday.
Eight days later, Customs detected another consignment containing 1.3 million cigarettes that were falsely declared as general cargo from Vientiane, Laos.
“On Sept 3, we seized another shipment of 1.3 million cigarettes, also from Vientiane, which was also declared as general cargo, ” said Zulkurnain.
On Sept 10, another two shipments containing 3.3 million cigarettes were seized.
“Both shipments came from Singapore and were declared as garments and consolidated cargo, respectively.
“Based on the latest seizures, we believe they are the work of one syndicate as the modus operandi and origin of these cigarettes were similar, ” he said.
Customs estimated the 8.84 million cigarettes were worth RM6.78mil, including duties.
He said they believed the syndicates were trying the air route since the task force started their work at Klang’s ports.
“The task force consists of the port authority, port operations, port police, and is led by the Customs Department, and its main role is to weed out contraband cigarettes and alcohol, ” he said.
Zulkurnain said the cases were being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967 for importing without an import licence.
“Those found guilty are liable to a fine of 10 times the value of the items, or RM100,000, whichever is higher, for their first offence, while they could be liable to a fine of 20 times the value of the items or RM500,000 (whichever is higher) for their second offence, or not more than five years’ imprisonment, or both, ” he said.