PETALING JAYA: It is now more critical than ever to classify illegal cigarette smuggling as an organised crime that falls under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) and utilise the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2001 (Amla) to take down its perpetrators, former State Police Chief of Sarawak, Datuk Dr Yusoff Nook, said today.
His comments came following a series of exposé by the media and confirmation from law enforcement agencies of illegal cigarette smuggling kingpins who have caused Malaysia to lose RM5 billion in uncollected tax revenue every year.
“After news reports of smugglers shifting their operations towards vulnerable coastal entry points, it is good to hear law enforcement agencies like the Royal Malaysian Police and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department announce a string of major busts and seizures of illegal cigarettes,” Yusoff said in a statement.
“Nevertheless, while millions of sticks of cigarettes are reported to have been seized in each operation, it is far too few to make a difference. Each year, more than 12 billion sticks of illegal cigarettes are brought into our country and these take up more than half the market share of cigarettes sold in Malaysia.”
He pointed out that law enforcement agencies have also acknowledged the presence of illegal cigarette smuggling kingpins to the extent of giving them names like Ben and Jimmy, while disclosing their criminal organisation chart and modus operandi.
“However, why are these kingpins and organisations still allowed to exist and operate? Clearly, the intelligence that has been gathered all these years should be enough to take them down?” he asked.
“At a time when the Covid pandemic is devastating our economy and ‘white flags’ have been surfacing throughout our communities, Malaysia has no space for illegal cigarette kingpins. They not only cause the country to lose precious funds that can help with recovery, but they also destabilise our social fabric with criminal elements and corrupt practices.
“It is about time existing laws including Sosma and Amla be leveraged on to empower our enforcement agencies to take swift and immediate action against this threat to national security.”
“Policymakers must set aside their political differences and take advantage of the reconvening of Parliament to support the use of Sosma, Amla and even Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA) to get rid of these kingpins.”
Yusoff said the relevant Ministers and Ministries must also do more to protect our heroes in law enforcement who have come under pressure from vested interests because they are trying very hard to stop the endemic illegal cigarette smuggling problem here in Malaysia.
He urged Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz and the coordinating minister to drive the National Recovery Plan, must ensure that the Multi-Agency Task Force is highly effective and provided viable support to do its job.
“In addition, the anti-illegal cigarette smuggling initiatives he has introduced in Budget 2021 are enforced diligently while providing the necessary funds to tighten enforcement around our coast.”
“After all, any economic growth achieved will be negated by the severe leakages that profit smuggling kingpins,“ Yusoff added.