KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5: Innovative public policies to curb corrupt practices need to be formulated to address Malaysia’s declining position in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2020 (CPI).

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, who holds the professorial chair at Institute of Crime and Criminology, HELP University, said the decline in terms of ratings clearly reflects the weakness of political will and anti-corruption efforts to address this problem.

“High-profile corruption cases and economic crimes that include rampant smuggling activities also worsen the perception that there is a high level of corruption in the public sector in the country,“ he said in a statement here today.

According to the latest CPI report, Malaysia, which was previously ranked 57th, dropped six spots to 51st. The CPI is an index released annually by Berlin-based Transparency International since 1995 which ranks the country based on the level of corruption perceptions within public sector.

Akhbar, who is also the former president of Transparency International Malaysia, said better policy and legal reforms needed to be made to ensure that those involved do not continue to do so.

Akhbar, the founder and president of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) – Malaysian Chapter, said the corrupt practices contributed to a chain of various national problems, although it started only with cigarette smuggling and law enforcement failure, diverting their views to facilitate criminals.

“What is more worrying is that cigarette smuggling and terrorism are interrelated. This underground economy is a threat to the economy and sovereignty of the country.

“The big money generated from the cigarette smuggling trade is then used to pay more unethical people to help perpetrate the crime and prevent honest and dedicated enforcement officers from tackling the problem of cigarette smuggling effectively,“ he said.

He said this was in line with the recent announcement by the Royal Malaysian Customs Department which reported that a total of 2,104 cases related to contraband cigarettes worth RM74.97 million confiscated last year, with RM661.90 million in taxes or duties.

“However, despite the hard work and perseverance of the customs officers, it is very rare for us to hear offenders or cigarette smuggling syndicates being arrested, prosecuted or sentenced.

“In fact, despite the increase in terms of seizures, the level of cigarette smuggling remains high,“ he said.

He also agreed with the suggestion of some lawmakers for policies to be introduced so that the price of cigarettes sold in the country is lower.- Bernama