JOHOR BARU: The Customs Department has busted a syndicate believed to be using residential homes in the East coast states to store illicit cigarettes before selling them to their target market.
Customs deputy director-general (enforcement and compliance) Datuk Sazali Mohamad said that more than 2.08 million sticks of clove and white cigarettes were uncovered when the department raided three housing units in Jerantut, Pahang and Marang, Terengganu on Sept 12.
“The contraband items were worth around RM625,000 and estimated unpaid duty amounting to RM2.58mil.
“Based on the various brands of the cigarettes that were stashed, we believe that they were brought in from Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam,” he told a press conference at the Johor Customs headquarters on Sunday (Sept 24).
He said the raid was conducted with the help of information from the public followed by two weeks of intelligence-gathering in order to establish a case.
He added that investigations were ongoing under Section 135(1)(d) of the Customs Act 1967, including identifying the home owners of the units used for the illegal activities.
The offence is punishable with a minimum fine of 10 times the value of the seized items or RM100,000, depending on which amount was higher, and not more than 20 times the amount or RM500,000, defending which amount was higher; or imprisonment of six months to five years; or both.
In a separate case, Sazali said the department also crippled an attempt to smuggle illicit cigarettes from Malaysia into Singapore via the Causeway.
“We found a shipment of 830,000 sticks of white cigarettes on a lorry at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex checkpoint on Sept 6.
“The items, worth RM166,000, had unpaid duty estimated at RM564,000. The products were brought in from China to be sold in Singapore.
“The 39-year-old lorry driver had since been arrested and charged at the Johor Baru Magistrate’s Court on Sept 19, where he pleaded guilty and was sent to jail for six months,” he added.
Sazali urged the public to assist the department with information related to any smuggling activities by calling the Customs toll-free number at 1800 88 8855 or by heading to the nearest Customs offices.