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PDRM dismantles illegal cigarette operations, authorities warn of tougher crackdown


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Plainclothes police raided some building in an unnamed port as part of a crackdown on illegal cigarettes. The bite was performed on the basis of reliable information from prognosticators.

Two men, suspected of being surveillance agents of the smugglers union, were arrested on the spot during the surprise raid. According to Chewing sin, the police have been tracking this union for two years.

227 boxes of illegal cigarettes and a truck were also seized. Police estimate the total value of illegal goods seized at RM2.749 million.

The illegal goods were about to be shipped to Klang, Shah Alam and Kuala Selangor.

Thousands of cigarettes in the process of being smuggled.
(Credit: Sayuti Zainudin / Hari Anggara via Malay Mail)

Apparently, the illegal operation established a base near the port to facilitate smuggling by land and sea. In fact, their smuggling operation is so extensive that it is understood that they also do their business online!

Ops Kontraban in order to stop smuggling activities

The police have been carrying out Operation Kontraban since January this year and have carried out dozens of attacks as part of this operation in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Johor.

More than 100 people were arrested in this operation, all implicated in the illegal activity of smuggling contraband items, including cigarettes.

Tobacco and alcohol are two of the most common contraband goods that evade taxes, although law enforcement agencies continue to actively investigate and crack down on these illegal markets.

Credit: Miera Zulyana / Malay Mail

Illegal cigarettes are often substandard, repackaged and sold at low prices. Often, other substances are also mixed with tobacco, which can cause untold health problems in addition to the existing health risks associated with tobacco use.

A hit in the country’s coffers

The big problem is that illegal cigarettes escape tax, costing the country up to RM 5 billion in lost tax revenue. every year.

In fact, surveys show Malaysia to be the “world power in illegal cigarettes” because such illegal activities are rampant.

Legal cigarettes suffer lost sales as smokers turn to illegal means.
(Credit: Shafwan Zaidon / Malay Mail)

In fact, former IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan pointed out that many smokers in Malaysia have switched to illegal cigarettes because legal cigarettes are deemed “too expensive”.

As illegal cigarettes now cost less than legal cigarettes, smokers are turning to contraband products. Naturally, sales of legal cigarettes with levied taxes are suffering.

Although the position of the World Health Organization on tobacco control is to increase the price of cigarettes to reduce the purchase and consumption of cigarettes, statistics from many countries where a significant population smokes show that this method “ of prohibition and levy ”did little to deter smokers.

Disturbingly, it has instead seen a growing population of teenagers and women who smoke.

Young people also choose electronic cigarettes such as vape.
(Credit: Don Delfin Almonte / Landovan via Unsplash)

In the end, Malaysia will not increase taxes on cigarettes. In the 2022 budget announced by Minister of Finance Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, only e-cigarette liquids or pastes (such as those used for vapers) were levied with an internal tax.

Kastam doesn’t play ‘No Mo’

The Royal Malaysian Customs Department (JKDM) is also not taking the matter lightly. They have declared war on all illegal cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol.

JKDM will crack down on traders and unions selling these illegal substances. Anyone caught selling these illicit cigarettes and alcohol will be immediately arrested. Ignorance of the law is no excuse for anyone, and anyone arrested will not be able to claim ignorance for leniency.

Customs officers are on the lookout for illegal goods crossing our borders.
(Credit: Malay Mail / Miera Zulyana)

In addition, Musa Hassan noted that the PDRM, in collaboration with JKDM, will strengthen border inspections to end smuggling activities across Malaysian borders.

Still, it is risky work. Unions don’t like law enforcement officers getting involved in stopping illegal activity, and officers have had physical altercations with smugglers while doing their jobs.

The water you make with these cigarettes?

Musa Hassan also says that these illegal supply chains, usually shipped by sea, often consist of many individuals. Some may belong to foreign criminal networks, but sometimes local Malaysians such as fishermen are also involved in supply chain management.

Small jetties with long and extensive coastlines are ideal areas for smugglers to carry out their illegal operations. Musa Hassan gives the example of Johor, which has many small jetties where smugglers will unload their illegal cargo.

In East Malaysia, unions also abuse “barter” to smuggle illegal cigarettes into Malaysia, eliminating the risk of a money or paper trail.

Some of these containers may contain contraband goods.
(Credit: Cameron Venti / Unsplash)

Usually, the boats used in this type of smuggling activity are passenger boats, fishing boats and even reused cargo ships. Contraband goods are said to be hidden in certain areas of the ship in an attempt to escape attention.

Occasionally, law enforcement operations see a breakthrough thanks to information from whistleblowers who turn on their criminal organization over disagreements over profits.

Landlords who rent property for an illegal business may also be charged

In addition, Musa Hassan also warned all landowners to learn what type of business is being conducted on their legal property.

If a store or warehouse is raided for operating illegal businesses, the legal owner may also face legal action for allowing such activities to take place on their property.

Police with illegal alcohol seized during a raid.
(Photo credit: Region 2 Marine Police Force / Malay Mail)

Therefore, all landlords are advised to perform background checks on their tenants prior to renting.

If illegal cigarettes or other substances are found on a property, the legal owner can be charged under Section 135 of the Customs Act 1967. Accordingly, any owner knowingly allowing his property to be used for illegal activities will incur a fine of RM 100,000, imprisonment for at least 6 months to no more than 5 years, or both.


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