Customs officers seize 4.3 million illicit cigarettes worth RM3 million in unpaid taxes

Royal Malaysian Customs Department director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy (centre) and deputy director Mohd Noor (right) and Sarawak Customs director Datin Shari'ah Halimah Taha at the press conference announcing the seizure of the contraband cigarettes.

KUCHING, Dec 11: The Sarawak Customs Department has seized a total of 4,300,000 sticks of contraband cigarettes worth RM390,000 at the Senari Port here.

The 430 master cases of ‘Rave’ brand cigarettes, which were declared as 300 cartons of nail polish remover and 330 cartons of cleansing water, were seized at the port here on Dec 4 following information received.

The estimated tax value of the illicit cigarettes, which were imported from Vietnam and supposed to be in transit here to be shipped to Indonesia, is RM3.02 million.

The Royal Malaysian Customs Department director-general Datuk Seri Subromaniam Tholasy said stern actions would be taken against shipping agents as a warning for breaching the rules in view of the worrying trend of illicit trade in the whole country. The majority of the smuggled goods are cigarettes and alcohol.

Out of the 3,000 agents throughout the country, a total of 12 are now under investigation, from which the majority are from Port Klang, Johor, Sabah, Sarawak and Penang. The licenses of the 12 agents will be revoked upon completion of investigations.

On top of increased monitoring of all ports and entry points, he said the department would make the shipping agents accountable and responsible for the goods they ship.

“They have to know their customers. Sometimes the company (who shipped the smuggled cigarettes) does not even exist or provide the wrong address. How can they (shipping agents) say they don’t know what is inside? ” Subromaniam told a press conference here today.

“This is a serious security issue too; all the goods need to have correct declaration. We will not compromise on this,” he added.

The seized cigarettes.

All the cigarettes were confiscated under Section 114 of the Customs Act 1967 as they had been shipped in without an authorised licence.

No arrest has been made and the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967.

Anyone found guilty under this Section could face a penalty between 10 and 20 times more than the customs duties owed or imprisonment of not more than three years or both.

Subsequent offenders could be fined between 20 and 40 times more than the customs duties owed or jailed not more than five years or both.

Subromaniam also urged the public to provide information and tip-offs by contacting the department through its hotline, 1-800-88-8855. He guaranteed that the identity of informer will be kept confidential.