Illegal cigarette super cartel hinders economic growth

ILLEGAL cigarettes super cartel within Malaysia’s law enforcement agencies must be quickly busted with operational enhancement and policy change.

Founder and president of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) – Malaysian Chapter Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar voiced such opinion following a series of reports on alleged ‘cartels’ operating within Malaysia’s various enforcement agencies.

These cartels were said to have facilitated diverse criminal activities ranging from money laundering to tender project manipulation.

“The revelation of cartels operating inside our law enforcement agencies should serve as a wake-up call for Malaysians,” Akhbar who also holds a professorial chair at the Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University, pointed out.

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar

“It clearly reflects the depth and breadth of criminal infiltration into public institutions that are supposed to uphold law and order.”

According to Akhbar, what the public is aware of is just the tip of the iceberg.

“These so-called cartels that have been busted are still relatively small fish compared to the illegal cigarettes cartel operating in Malaysia,” he revealed.

“Over the years, illicit cigarettes cartels have become more brazen and have devised new modus operandi to bribe unethical enforcement officers to cover up their trail.”

“While not all enforcement officers or personnel can be bought, these illegal cigarette cartels are willing to exhaust every avenue – including leveraging threats – to influence these quarters to work with them.”

Malaysia is currently the No. 1 in the world for the illegal cigarette trade where six out of 10 cigarettes sold in the market are illegal products.

In so doing, the country losses more than RM5 bil a year in uncollected tax revenue from this trade.

“One can just imagine the total profit generated by the entire illegal cigarettes eco-system here in the country,” exclaimed Akhbar.

“Profit reaped from this massive illegal trade by these cartels is more than enough to establish a super cartel involving most, if not all, our enforcement agencies.

“They have no problem hiring lawyers to represent them in court and settle fines if they are caught smuggling the contraband.”

This super cartel, according to Akhbar, is required because the illegal cigarette trade cartels in Malaysia involves a highly sophisticated, large scale and deep-rooted value chain that include international manufacturing, import, transportation, warehousing, distribution, retail and even export,” he explained.

With regard to solutions to tackle the illegal cigarette super cartel, Akhbar proposed to start with improving the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of all enforcement agencies.

“Effective personnel rotation system should be in place at high corruption areas such as seaports, airports and land borders. It is important to make sure that individuals assigned to carry out the specific task are honest enough to enforce them,” reckoned the former graft buster with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

In March, Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador announced that the police had busted a billion-ringgit scam network led by fugitive Datuk Seri Nicky Liow Soon Hee with the arrest of 68 suspects, including two Datuks Seri and six Datuks.

The IGP further noted that a total of 34 officers from enforcement agencies like the police were conspirators of this syndicate.

Early this month, MACC crippled a tender project cartel with seven individuals’ arrested, including its mastermind.

The perpetrators have monopolised over 354 tenders from several ministries and government agencies nationwide worth RM3.8 bil. – April 14, 2021

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