KOTA KINABALU: Enforcement officers are keeping a hawk-eyed watch on the distribution of subsidised cooking oil across Sabah amid gnawing worries of such items being hijacked and sold to neighbouring countries.
The Sabah Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry office has already detected more attempts to misappropriate subsidised cooking oil this year, with 25 cases detected so far compared to 23 for the whole of 2021.
State KPDNHEP director Georgie Abas said five Malaysians have been arrested in connection with the cases this year, with one charged in court.
Of the 25 cases, 15 are still under investigation.
At the same time, he added, the authorities had also seized scores of cooking oil amounting to more than RM316,000 in market value.
“Some of the cooking oil was already found in tanker lorries when we conducted our raids,” he said, when contacted Friday (July 8).
Georgie said they suspected the cooking oil was taken from the 1kg polybags, which were subsidised by the government, and emptied into the lorries, adding this could be meant to be sold to local industries or smuggled out of the country.
“But our investigations are still ongoing. Normally those who were caught doing such acts are those who had not obtained valid permits issued by our ministry to distribute subsidised cooking oil,” he said.
The latest attempt to smuggle the commodity outside of the country was foiled by the marine police in waters off Sabah’s east coast Semporna district on Wednesday (July 6).
The police seized 561 packets of cooking oil as well as two jerrycans containing petrol which they believed were on their way to a neighbouring country. The suspects escaped into the jungle after ditching their boat on the shore.
Towards this end, Georgie was grateful for the assistance from the police as well as other enforcement agencies to his ministry in the effort to curb such smuggling activities.
He said the hard work by his men as well as the various agencies under the enforcement community has managed to detect more unscrupulous activities this year.
“We are very thankful for all the other enforcement agencies who are helping us because we don’t have maritime assets so they are the only ones who can assist us,” he said.
He also paid tribute to the public for supplying vital information for their intelligence unit to map out potential smuggling activities, urging the people to continue with such cooperation.
“We are closely monitoring the distribution of cooking oil because there’s always a possibility of people conducting their business improperly because of the price difference (between subsidised oil and non-subsidised oil),” Georgie said.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi had previously said that the smuggling and misappropriation of subsidised cooking oil to neighbouring countries were rampant in states bordering neighbouring countries.
This included Kedah, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak due to the high price of the commodity on the global market.
Nanta said the authorities have seized RM1.5mil worth of subsidised cooking oil in the four states, involving 61 cases, from January to July 5.
According to him, the packaged oil priced at RM2.50 per kg in Malaysia is sold at a much higher price in countries like Thailand (RM12.60 per kg); Indonesia (RM14.27 per kg); Philippines (RM11.23 per kg) and Singapore (RM12.33 per kg).