Smugglers nabbed after high-speed chase in Lahad Datu waters

KOTA KINABALU: Enforcement authorities here apprehended two smugglers while several others managed to escape following a high-speed boat chase in Sabah’s east coast Lahad Datu district. Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) personnel made the arrest after stopping four boats which were en route to a neighbouring country.

All four boats were found to be carrying controlled items such as subsidised cooking oil and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) worth more than RM174,000.

Lahad Datu MMEA director Commander Nik Mohd Rizam Nik Mohd Fauzi said they mounted the operation on Monday (Nov 28) after receiving reports from the public about smuggling being carried out in waters off Felda Sahabat in the district.

He said their two MMEA vessels spotted the four boats which were headed to the border from the district at 12.05am.

“A chase ensued after the smugglers noticed the presence of authorities,” he said on Wednesday (Nov 30).

“The boats headed for the shore but we managed to detain two men, both foreigners aged 30 and 35, while the rest escaped into a nearby mangrove swamp, abandoning all the four boats,” he added.

After an inspection, Nik Mohd said they found 3,791kg of subsidised cooking oil as well as 16 LPG tanks which they believe were meant to be sold in a neighbouring country.

“Further inspection on the suspects found that they had no documentation or valid permits to allow them to transport the controlled goods,” he said, adding the items, including the boats, were estimated to be more than RM174,000.

He added the suspects and seized items were then brought to the Lahad Datu MMEA jetty for investigations under Control of Supplies Act 1961 and Customs Act 1967.

Nik Mohd said the Lahad Datu MMEA had recorded 43 cases of wrongdoings, including 10 that involved smuggling, so far this year.

“The MMEA will continue to intensify enforcement efforts to curb activities that infringe on the maritime laws particularly in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone),” he said.

Towards this end, he said that the public can relay any information pertaining to maritime offences in Lahad Datu waters by calling their operations centre at 089-885727.

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