JOHOR BARU, Aug 3 — The Johor Customs Department seized more than eight million sticks of cigarettes estimated to be worth RM3.8 million at a warehouse in Kulai recently, making it the largest contraband seizure in the state this year.
The cigarettes, consisting of regular white sticks and kretek (clove cigarettes), are believed to be smuggled here from neighbouring Indonesia.
Johor Customs Department director Sazali Mohamad said the illicit cigarette seizure, which is the largest case in the state for this year, was carried out by the department’s Johor Baru enforcement division’s operations unit on July 23 at 2.30pm.
"As a result of closely observing the suspicious warehouse, the Customs Department operatives came across 8,017,600 cigarettes hidden in packages covered under canvas.
"The value of the cigarettes is estimated to be RM3.8 million, while the duties and taxes involved are about RM5.7 million. The total value of the confiscated contraband, including taxes, amounted to RM9.45 million,” said Sazali in a media conference at Menara Kastam Johor here.
Sazali said despite the large amount of illicit cigarettes seized, there were no arrests made during the raid.
He said the operation’s success was the result of two months of intelligence gathering and investigation.
"The smuggling syndicate's modus operandi was to hide the contraband cigarettes in warehouses before distributing them to the local market.
"Investigators believe that the untaxed cigarettes were brought in illegally by sea route,” he said.
The case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(d) of the Customs Act 1967, which carries a fine not less than 10 times the value of items or RM100,000 (whichever is higher) upon conviction.
The Act also states a fine not less than 20 times the value of items or RM500,000 (whichever is higher) or imprisonment no less than six months and not more than five years, or both.
In a separate case, the Johor Customs Department’s Sungai Pulai enforcement division confiscated 3,840 cans of untaxed beer, equivalent to 1,790.40 litres, after stopping a Toyota Estima multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) at Kilometer 2.7 Jalan Sultan Ismail at the coastal highway on July 22.
"The contraband beer was hidden at the rear of the vehicle. The confiscated beverage is estimated to be worth RM10,700, while the total duties and tax involved is at RM37,300.
"The total value of the confiscated beverage, including tax and vehicles, amounted to RM88,100.,” he said, adding that the driver failed to submit approval documentation such as invoices, Customs Form 1 or import permits.
Sazali said investigators believe that the suspect had been carrying out the activity for the past two to three months.
"The syndicate’s modus operandi was to use an MPV to transport the contraband liquor, before distributing it to interested parties,” he said.
Sazali said the suspect had pleaded not guilty after he was charged at the Magistrate Court here on July 27 under Section 74(1)(d) of the Excise Act 1976.