Sabah: Major smuggling syndicate crippled

LABUAN – Sabah police have identified at least three major smuggling syndicates actively running the illicit activity from the duty-free-island of Labuan to the mainland of Sabah.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali said one of the syndicates, had been crippled last week.

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He said the smuggling racket from Labuan had evolved gradually and become a serious issue.

“The syndicates smuggled cigarettes, alcoholic drinks and chicken wings from the duty-free-island here to the mainland.

“The cigarettes and alcoholic drinks smuggled to the mainland of Sabah are for the market in the rural areas. It is a matter of time before we get the masterminds,” he said at a press conference here today.

With the new government’s ruling coming into effect on Jan 1, 2021, cigarettes will be subjected to taxes at all duty-free islands or duty-free zones.

The move, one of the measures under the recently passed Budget 2021, is an effort to stem cigarette smuggling activities said to be rampant at duty-free islands and zones.

“But the smuggling of alcoholic drinks to the mainland of Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei has to be addressed also,” he said.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said cigarettes are one of the most smuggled items in the country.

Drugs confiscated

The Kuala Perlis Maritime Zone (KPMZ) Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) meanwhile thwarted an attempt to smuggle 300 kilogrammes (kg) of compressed ganja, worth an estimated RM1.5 million in a special operation in Kuala Perlis waters on Dec 25.

Kedah and Perlis MMEA deputy operations director Maritime Captain Zulinda Ramly said in the raid at 3 am on Friday, an unregistered fibreglass boat was detained around 0.4 nautical miles (about 600 metres from the coast) west of Sungai Padang beach near here.

“Inspections conducted on the boat found 11 sacks containing box-shaped compressed lumps wrapped neatly in white plastic suspected to be compressed ganja, brought in from a neighbouring country.

“The boat and the drug seizure worth RM1.53 million were brought to the MMEA jetty and the case is being investigated under Section 39 (B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952,” she said in a press conference here today.

Zulinda said even though no arrests were made during the operations but the suspect believed to be a man from southern Thailand had managed to escape.

She added the skipper (suspect) had changed the direction of the boat after realising the presence of the authorities before jumping into the sea and swimming towards the nearby mangrove swamp forest.

“We believe the smuggled ganja was for the market around the north of Peninsular Malaysia,” she said.

Zulinda said this is the second-largest seizure after the first one on Nov 15 this year, with the total amount of drugs and ketum seized to date worth RM31 million.

She said this was the result of intelligence and surveillance carried out for several weeks in efforts to cripple drug smuggling syndicates in the country’s waters.

Outside of jurisdiction

With regard to the issue of meat smuggling which is hotly debated now, it is outside the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), said its Research Division senior director Datuk Dr Sirajuddin Suhaimee.

He said the role of Jakim is to check whether a slaughterhouse abroad complies with Islamic law from the aspect of the slaughtering process until the meat is packaged and put in a box free of contamination.

“The meat import permit is issued by the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Department (Maqis). When the product reaches the national gates, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department will look at it in terms of taxes.

“After the meat product is in the warehouse in the country, it is subject to The Trade Descriptions Act 2011 under the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP), “said Sirajuddin.

He said this in a special segment of ‘Ask Jakim’ titled Halal Certificate SOP: Where’s the Mistake? which was posted online on Jakim’s Facebook today.

Sirajuddin said Jakim was aware that many people questioned the department when it did not issue any statement on the issue of smuggling of imported meat after it was revealed by the media recently.

Among the allegations leveled at Jakim was why it remained silent and did not reveal the list of names of companies or brands involved.

Answering the question, he said, the authorities who were conducting the investigation would reveal the matter once the investigation into the case is completed.

Sirajuddin said, Jakim did not issue any statement on the issue of meat smuggling because the investigation on the matter is still being conducted by KPDNHEP.

“Let the investigation be conducted in the best way without interruption. Provide the relevant agency with room to investigate. Feedback from Jakim will create a bad atmosphere. The investigation will be affected if Jakim issues a statement,” he said.

Since this issue arose, many have questioned Jakim on this matter because they considered Jakim to be fully responsible for the process of bringing in meat from abroad.

Asked whether the meat smuggling activity had been taking place for 40 years, he said the matter could not be confirmed or denied because it was an allegation from the industry and not an agency or enforcement body.

The issue of smuggled meat became hot when the media reported on cartel activities smuggling frozen meat from China, Ukraine, Brazil and Argentina before repackaging the meat using the halal logo at a warehouse in Senai, Johor.