Crime & Courts

MACC arrests 34 customs officers in RM2 billion smuggling scheme [NSTTV]

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) has detained 34 customs officers suspected of being involved in the smuggling of contraband items resulting in losses of more than RM2 billion for the country.

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said the contraband tobacco, cigarettes, and liquor were smuggled Kuala Lumpur International Airport Cargo, Sepang.

"The officers are in their 30s to 50s and include those ranging from Grades 19 (assistant enforcement officers) to 44 (assistant director)," he said at a press conference, here, today.

Azam said the officers involved allegedly received bribes in exchange for allowing cargo to pass through without checks.

"These Customs officers were found to have received bribes totaling over RM 4.7 million from syndicates to facilitate the smuggling of chewing tobacco, cigarettes, alcohol, health products, and vehicle spare parts.

"An examination of import documents (K1) involving the syndicate-owned importing companies indicate the government has lost between RM1.5 billion to RM2 billion in revenue over two years."

However, Azam said as the syndicate has been active since 2017, the loss of revenue could well exceed RM2 billion.

Also in attendance was MACC's Anti-Money Laundering unit director Datuk Mohamad Zamri Zainul Abidin.

MACC also arrested 27 people and business owners involved in the smuggling following a six-month investigation.

The case is being investigated under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act for corporate liability.

The arrests were made by the MACC AML unit following Operation Samba 2.0, which was carried out in collaboration with the Inland Revenue Board and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) beginning March 11.

The syndicate's modus operandi includes utilising forwarding agents as intermediaries for payments to enforcement officers to clear the smuggling of liquor, cigarettes, tobacco, and other goods without declaration and the necessary inspections into the country.

The syndicate is also believed to use dummy accounts for bribery transactions with complicit civil servants.

Furthermore, the syndicate was discovered to be involved in money laundering by passing money through shell companies, business accounts, money changers, and licenced money lenders.

"The modus operandi is quite common. It's not peculiar... the money was also transferred directly to their accounts and it has created a pattern. It seemed like they are not worried," he said.

Azam said a total of 231 bank accounts of individuals and companies acting as mule accounts holding RM17,621,578.50, have been frozen.

He said the MACC also seized mobile phones, laptops, and eight luxury vehicles belonging to the involved syndicates to assist in their investigation.

Azam said IRB and BNM would also take action through their respective laws to repatriate the losses through tax avoidance.

Azam said MACC will wrap up its probe in one-and-a-half months and submit the papers to the Attorney General's Chambers for the next course of action.

Previously, it was reported that the MACC had arrested and remanded 10 civil servants and five others for the same case.

Before that, they arrested and remanded 11 individuals, including five public servants, to assist in investigations.

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