Cus­toms Dept wages all-out war against il­licit trade

New Straits Times - - News - DATUK T. SUBROMANIAM

Cus­toms Depart­ment has de­clared an all-out war against il­licit cig­a­rette trade in its bid to elim­i­nate the smug­gling racket that has cost the gov­ern­ment RM4.4 bil­lion in rev­enue.

Cus­toms direc­tor-gen­eral Datuk T. Subromaniam said the depart­ment recorded 2,663 cases of il­licit cig­a­rettes last year, with Sabah top­ping the list with 936 cases fol­lowed by Jo­hor (273), Se­lan­gor (218), Sarawak (176) and Ke­lan­tan (159).

“Some 828.23 mil­lion sticks of cig­a­rettes val­ued at RM82.68 mil­lion were seized by the depart­ment last year, with the value of du­ties and taxes on the items seized amount­ing to RM648.92 mil­lion.

“This is a huge in­crease from the 584.25 mil­lion sticks seized in 2015 val­ued at RM48.3 mil­lion, with RM315.43 mil­lion in tax value.”

He said con­tra­band cig­a­rettes were the mostsmug­gled com­mod­ity in Malaysia and stressed that the tax in­crease on cig­a­rettes was not a fac­tor in the rise of il­licit cig­a­rettes in the coun­try.

“It (tax in­crease on cig­a­rettes) is merely a mea­sure to re­duce the num­ber of smok­ers in Malaysia and in­crease tax rev­enue. We can­not solely blame tax­a­tion for the rise in il­licit cig­a­rettes,” he told the New Sun­day Times.

Subromaniam, who was re­cently ap­pointed the depart­ment’s head, ac­knowl­edged that there had been en­force­ment gaps in the past and as­sured that strin­gent mea­sures would be taken to plug leak­ages in the sys­tem.

“It (smug­gling and il­licit cig­a­rette trade) is al­ways on the rise largely due to pol­icy gaps.

“When I took over, we de­cided to look at the pro­cesses and pro­ce­dures and de­vel­oped sev­eral new strate­gies for im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“The other thing is the in­tegrity as­pect. We are de­ter­mined to stop the scourge of cig­a­rette smug­gling. There will be no place for cor­rup­tion.”

Subromaniam said one of the ma­jor sources of smug­gling was through free-zone fa­cil­i­ties, which is out­side of the depart­ment’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

“Per­mits for tran­sit and tran­ship­ment of crit­i­cal goods are now re­quired. We have strength­ened daily en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties, such as land, sea pa­trol, rou­tine check­ing of the con­tain­ers and premises.”

He said the depart­ment had con­ducted op­er­a­tions with var­i­ous agen­cies un­der the Health Min­istry, Do­mes­tic Trade, Co­op­er­a­tives and Con­sumerism Min­istry and the Malaysia Mar­itime En­force­ment Agency to com­bat the il­licit cig­a­rette trade.

“We have tight­ened the Cus­toms Col­lab­o­rated Border Man­age­ment at all en­try points into the coun­try and im­ple­mented a new pol­icy at duty-free is­lands, whereby only cer­tain ar­eas of the par­tic­u­lar is­land are gazetted as duty free.”

He said il­licit cig­a­rettes were sold from RM3.50 to RM8 for a pack of 20 sticks. In con­trast, the price of le­gal cig­a­rettes is five times more, with the most pop­u­lar brand sold at RM17.

The other thing is the in­tegrity as­pect. We are de­ter­mined to stop the scourge of cig­a­rette smug­gling. There will be no place for cor­rup­tion.

Most store own­ers hide their il­licit cig­a­rette stocks in the drawer be­neath the counter, while a few hide them in bis­cuit con­tain­ers or store­rooms at the back of the shop.

Subromaniam said the depart­ment was also push­ing for harsher penal­ties to de­ter traders and restau­ra­teurs from sell­ing con­tra­band cig­a­rettes.

“We are propos­ing an amend­ment to Sec­tion 135(1)(d) of the Cus­toms Act 1967 to raise the min­i­mum fine to RM100,000 for

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