BANGI, 8 Jan 2019:
With the amendments to the Customs Act 1967 and Excise Act 1976 having come into force on Jan 2, sellers of contraband cigarettes and alcoholic drinks are staring at hefty punishment.
The minimum jail term is six months or a fine of RM100,000, if convicted.
Before, the punishment was a mere slap on the wrist – just a minimum jail term of a day and a minimum fine of RM1,000 or both,
Royal Malaysian Customs Department (JKDM) director-general Datuk Seri T. Subromaniam yesterday said the changes were necessary to curb smuggling and evasion of duty on these items.
He said two arrests were made yesterday with the offenders brought to the Kota Bharu magistrate’s court. The offenders, both Pakistani nationals, were found to be in possession of contraband items worth RM152 with unpaid duty amounting to RM1,010.04.
He added that two other offenders had pleaded guilty and were slapped the RM100,000 fine or 12 months jail in default.
“We expect this month alone, about 50 cases will be brought to court over illicit cigarettes and liquor.
“With the stiffer punishment in place, I believe JKDM will bring in more revenue as announced in Budget 2019 where the department has been asked to make an additional collection of RM1 billion from the sale of cigarettes.”
He warned would-be offenders that it did not matter whether they sold “one pack of illicit cigarettes or a carton”.
“It is impossible to sell a pack of cigarettes at RM5 because the excise duty and sales and service tax total about RM10.”
Separately, JKDM has set up a special internal investigative branch to probe officers suspected to be involved in bribery.
Subromaniam said the unit – which as been in force since Jan 2 – was a proactive step for JKDM to ensure the standards of compliance and integrity of its officers is at the proper level.
The special branch has 27 officers, all selected to carry out investigations on fellow officers suspected of corrupt activities.
Subromaniam said the 27 officers, many of whom were young officers, were screened carefully.
They have been authorised to investigate their fellow officers regardless of their rank and directly send reports to the Customs director-general.
He said that the branch would focus and investigate cases involving syndicates who received internal assistance from JKDM officers.
“I admit there is an issue of integrity, corruption and abuse of power in JDKM because this department is big with more than than 14,000 staff members and the establishment of the branch would help strengthen the integrity level of JKDM members.”
Subromaniam said the provision of Section 137 of the Customs Act 1967 authorises customs officers to investigate any customs officer suspected to be involved in graft.
Any officer found guilty can be jailed for not more than five years or fined maximum of RM500,000 or both, he said.