Convicted Customs officers linked to 'flying containers' fraud will have to pay back bribes, says MACC chief

KUALA LUMPUR: Customs officers if found guilty of being involved in the "flying containers" case, will have to pay back the same amount they had gained from their illegal activities.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said the graft-busters had a mechanism to repatriate the stolen money back to government coffers.

He was responding to reports of 11 Customs Department officers, who were among 17 people arrested by MACC in its investigation into "flying containers" of smuggled goods that evaded RM3.5 billion in taxes.

"For example, let's say they gained about RM10 million, so in principle, they have to pay the government back that RM10 million, because they have avoided paying tax on that RM10 million," he told reporters during a visit to Balai Berita in Bangsar here, today.

Azam said the illegal activities in Port Klang had been going on for more than 10 years, and there were over 100 companies involved.

"It's quite a tedious job and a very complex investigation, because it involves financial investigations."

Yesterday (June 13), it was reported that the six other suspects in the case comprised directors and staff of a company, a runner and his lover.

Sources said the MACC had so far seized RM4.4 million cash, believed to be the Customs officers' proceeds from corruption.

Among other items seized were four Yamaha XMAX motorcycles worth RM28,000 each, a luxury multipurpose vehicle worth more than RM200,000, a used BMW, jewellery, luxury watches and a plot of land.

All the items and assets were bought with cash.

MACC had also frozen 12 bank accounts holding RM2 million belonging to the company and other suspects.

Azam said the MACC was also investigating the companies, especially the forwarding agents, as the modus operandi was to channel the money through them and other related companies.

"We will also investigate the finances of the companies involved. This will take time, and repatriation (of assets) on (private) companies needs a different approach than (cases) involving government officers.

"We will also rope in the Customs Department and Inland Revenue Board to conduct investigations into their finances."

The "flying containers" case came to light following the arrest of seven individuals, including Customs personnel, last week for suspected collusion with a smuggling syndicate in Port Klang that resulted in leakages of RM3.5 billion.

Nineteen containers with imported products were seized during the operation conducted by the MACC and the Customs Department on Wednesday.

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