Customs stems financial bleed, prevents RM8.5m in cigarette smuggling at Johor port

Johor Customs Department director Datuk Mohammad Hamidan Maryani (centre) with the seized contraband cigarettes during a press conference at the Gelang Patah Customs Enforcement Division office at the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (KSAB) in Gelang Patah, Iskandar Puteri. — Picture by Ben Tan
Johor Customs Department director Datuk Mohammad Hamidan Maryani (centre) with the seized contraband cigarettes during a press conference at the Gelang Patah Customs Enforcement Division office at the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (KSAB) in Gelang Patah, Iskandar Puteri. — Picture by Ben Tan

ISKANDAR PUTERI, Jan 1 — An attempt to sneak in 10,500 sticks of cigarettes from the country without paying tax was foiled at Johor’s Port of Tanjung Pelepas on Christmas Eve.

The shipment of contraband goods bound for overseas markets had been listed as furniture. If the smuggling attempt had been successful, Malaysia would have lost RM8.5 million, including tax, Johor Customs director Datuk Mohammad Hamidan Maryani said today.

Hamidan said his officers were tipped off that smugglers were taking advantage of a faulty cargo scanner at the port on December 24, 2019 to ship in contraband goods.

Malay Mail understands the said RM12 million scanner is the only one at the southern port and has been in service for 16 years.

A replacement had been requested, but would only be available in six months.

Hamidan said after being alerted, Johor Customs enforcers swooped down on Tanjung Pelepas at 4.15pm on December 24 where they discovered the contraband goods in a container declared as furniture.

“However, a thorough check of the container yielded 52,500 cartons of Zon King brand cigarettes that are a prohibited commodity.

“We seized the cigarettes that totalled 10,500 sticks worth RM1.47 million with RM7.07 million in undeclared taxes,” Hamidan told a press conference at the Gelang Patah Customs Enforcement Division office at the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex.

Johor Customs Department director Datuk Mohammad Hamidan Maryani said the department is waiting for a replacement scanner for the Port of Tanjung Pelepas. — Picture by Ben Tan
Johor Customs Department director Datuk Mohammad Hamidan Maryani said the department is waiting for a replacement scanner for the Port of Tanjung Pelepas. — Picture by Ben Tan

However, Hamidan said the department has yet to make any arrest and has categorised the case as a seizure.

“The Johor Customs Department are investigating the case under Section 135 (1) (g) of the Customs Act 1967 for attempting to smuggle prohibited goods.

“Under Section 135 (1) (v) (aa) of the Act, the offence is punishable with a fine of at least 10 times, or RM100,000, and a maximum of 20 times of the tax value, whichever is higher, as well as a minimum six-month and maximum five-year jail sentence,” he said.

On the scanning machine, Mohammad Hamidan said the department is waiting for a replacement that is scheduled to arrive by June.

“Meanwhile, the Customs Department staff at the Port of Tanjung Pelepas will have to conduct manual checking of goods entering the country,” he said.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version mistakenly reported the smugglers attempting to export the contraband cigarettes instead of importing them and has since been corrected. Malay Mail apologises for the confusion.

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