Dr Rundi: State getting tough on power theft crime

Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi

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KUCHING, Oct 18: The state Utilities Ministry continues to remind the public that electricity theft is a dangerous crime that robs Sarawak of millions of ringgit that could be invested in extending, reinforcing and modernising the power system.

“Through our Electrical Inspectorate Unit under the ministry, we are continuing to crackdown on electricity theft in an enforcement campaign launched in 2010. We launched this multi-agency effort together with Sarawak Energy Bhd and the police.

“Stealing electricity has major consequences. Through loss of revenue, it deprives Sarawak Energy’s genuine paying customers of revenue that could be invested in a more reliable and modern power system for Sarawak,” said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom.

Prosecution of all electricity theft cases is handled by the Ministry of Utilities and the state Attorney General’s Chambers. Electricity theft is a crime under Section 33(5) of the Electricity Ordinance, which carries a penalty of RM100,000 and/or five years’ jail.

The ministry had prosecuted 10 power theft cases in court since 2017 and all the defendants pleaded guilty to the offences.

Since the campaign began nine years ago, the consolidated efforts have led to a major improvement in the statistics on electricity theft, with a significant reduction in non-technical losses and recovery of arrears of over RM100 million annually.

In 2018, a joint operation held with MACC led to a significant meter tampering bust. The operation brought down a syndicate in Miri that was manning a laboratory for meter tampering activities. The culprit was arrested by MACC for bribery offences and was also charged by the police for possession of fake meter covers.

In relation to this case, Sarawak Energy discovered about 100 cryptocurrency mining servers directly tapping power, bypassing the electricity meter. During the operation more than 500 imitation meter covers and 90 stolen electricity meters were seized, making it the biggest electricity theft bust so far.

It also revealed that more than 30 meter-reading contractors’ staff collaborating with the service provider to manipulate meter readings. All of them have been terminated or resigned since then, he said.

Electricity theft is extremely dangerous as unsafe wirings and direct tapping can causing fire and even electrocution, leading to injuries and even deaths, he added.

“The MoU will continue to work closely with Sarawak Energy and the relevant agencies, to curb power theft and will not hesitate to take legal action on the perpetrator so that Sarawakians are provided with the modern power system they deserve.” — DayakDaily