Enforce stronger legislations against illegal cigarettes kingpins


EXISTING but more powerful laws must be used to take down organised crime, including heads of these organisations who drive Malaysia's multibillion ringgit illegal cigarettes trade, said a well-known legal columnist today.

There have been recent calls for the government and enforcement agencies to take severe action against illegal cigarettes traffickers and the kingpins heading these nefarious organisations.There have been recent calls for the government and enforcement agencies to take severe action against illegal cigarettes traffickers and the kingpins heading these nefarious organisations.

R Paneir Selvam, HELP University Faculty of Business, Economics and Accounting and Institute Crime and Criminology senior lecturer comments, “Malaysia is on the verge of a grave situation in relation to illegal trafficking and organised crime and this problem must be addressed as a national security issue.”

Citing a case in point, in June, the police raided a warehouse and store in Tasek Gelugor, Penang and arrested five men while seizing 18.5 million contraband cigarettes worth RM13.87mil.

“According to investigations, the cigarettes were smuggled from a neighbouring country using marine routes and mid-sea transfers and stored in a registered company's warehouse and store.”

“Their modus operandi clearly shows a high level of multinational and multi-layered organisation, with the support of both foreign and local authorities. As such, it is both relevant and timely to apply laws like Sosma, Poca and Amla to these cases,” he affirmed.

Selvam explained that the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or Sosma will establish special measures for security offences to maintain public order and security, “After the initial 24 hours following an arrest, Sosma enables a person to be detained for up to 28 days.”

“This is especially apt for a suspect who poses a national security threat. It basically allows investigators adequate time to complete their investigation without hindrance or interference, which unfortunately has occured frequently in the past, causing perpetrators to escape justice,” he elaborated.

The Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), meanwhile, provides for more effective crime prevention across Malaysia, as well as a way to control members of secret societies and terrorists, among others.

Selvam explained, "Poca gives the police the authority to arrest and hold a person for up to 60 days without charge or trial.”

"Following the 60-day detention period, a detainee's case will be heard by the Prevention of Crime Board, which has the authority to sentence the detainee to a maximum of two years in prison. However, this may be extended if the board determines further detention is necessary to protect public order, security, or to prevent crime," Selvam highlighted.

Poca is an ideal legistlation to be used against illegal cigarettes kingpins whom the authorities are already aware of but no action can be taken for some reason. “These kingpins are a threat to national security and profit from illicit trade often funds terrorism. These factors fit both the spirit and objective of Poca,” he said.

The Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (Amla) defines the crimes of money laundering and terrorism financing along with measures to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.

“Amla grants law enforcement agencies and the public prosecutor broad investigative powers, including the ability to freeze and seize properties involved or suspected in money laundering or terrorism financing offences, as well as the ability of the court to forfeit properties derived from the proceeds of serious crimes.”

“As per Section 4 of this Act, on conviction, any person who commits a money laundering offence faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of not less than five times the sum or value of the proceeds of an unlawful activity or instrumentalities of an offence at the time the offence was committed, or RM5mil, whichever is higher.”

Selvam said that organised crime would usually use a variety of methods to launder money, and Amla would allow relevant agencies to freeze and confiscate properties with the goal of forfeiting them under court order.

“Let’s hit these criminal synicates where it hurt most - their finances. Without funds, they would be hard pressed to bribe their way out of law enforcement’s hands,” Selvam said.

“The current political unrest and economic crisis will provide criminals with even more opportunities to broaden their horizons in illegal trade. Now is the time for enforcement agencies to deploy more effective laws like Sosma, Poca and Amla to act against organised crime and dissuade others from becoming involved in such crimes in Malaysia,” Selvam concluded.

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