SEPANG: The Royal Malaysian Customs Department (JKDM)) Unit III (LTAKL) Central Zone successfully thwarted attempts to smuggle approximately 5,000 kilogrammes (kg) of chewing tobacco, involving duty worth over RM409,000, in three cases between May and early June.

Customs Central Zone assistant director-general, Norlela Ismail said that two of the cases occurred at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) Terminal 1 and the other in the Free Commercial Zone (FCZ) at KLIA.

Chewing tobacco is a prohibited item listed under the Customs (Prohibition of Imports) Order 2023, Item 66, Schedule 2, Entry 3.

Speaking at a press conference today, she said on May 29, the Enforcement Division Unit III (LTAKL) Central Zone detained and seized 2,700 kg of chewing tobacco attempted to be imported without a valid import permit in the FCZ at KLIA.

“The modus operandi involved declaring the cargo as ‘console cargo’ with a fake importer’s name. After the cargo was detained, no party or agent nor the importer came forward to claim the goods and submit the import documents,“ she said.

For the second case on June 3 at KLIA Terminal 1, Norlela said two foreign men, aged 23 and 25, arriving from a South Asian country were detained for smuggling 57.9 kg of chewing tobacco.

She said the tobacco was placed in two checked-in bags, but the suspects failed to produce a valid permit and were suspected to be part of a group.

“This suspicion is based on the discovery of 88 other bags left on the baggage carousel after the two men were detained.

“Checks revealed all the bags arrived on the same flight as them, and it is believed that other syndicate members intentionally left the 88 bags after their activities were uncovered,“ she said, adding that 2,250 kg of chewing tobacco were found in those bags.

Meanwhile, in the third case on June 7, she said two foreign men, aged 33 and 55, arriving from a South Asian country, were detained for the same offence, with 60 kg of chewing tobacco seized.

According to Norlela, these individuals frequently entered Malaysia and stayed for short periods, with return tickets to their home country dated June 14.

The case in the FCZ at KLIA is being investigated under Regulation 30 (1) of the Free Zone Regulations 1991, while the two cases at KLIA Terminal 1 are being investigated under Section 135 (1) (f) of the Customs Act 1967.

In a separate case, Norlela said JKDM detained a 67-year-old American man at KLIA Terminal 1 on June 4 for smuggling 2.245 kg of cocaine worth RM449,000.

“The man had flown from Sao Paolo, Brazil, transited in Doha, Qatar, before arriving in Malaysia.

The syndicate had recruited the elderly man to carry a suitcase filled with drugs to a designated destination, and he has been remanded until June 18,“ she said, adding that the case is being investigated under Section 39B (1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.