RTBA: MATF should have clearer goals on combatting illicit trade

A MULTI-AGENCY task force can be a highly effective asset to curb illegal trade in Malaysia if both political will and the proper support are provided to the task force to do its job, said an advocacy group.

The Retail and Trade Brands Advocacy Malaysia Chapter’s (RTBA Malaysia) remark came on the back of the recent seizure of the 100acre illicit tobacco crop across three locations in New South Wales and Victoria.

The operation was conducted by the Australian Border Force (ABF) and was led by the Illicit Tobacco Task Force (ITTF).

Apart from that, ITTF officers from various government agencies as well as the ABF, Australian Tax Office, Victoria Police and the New South Wales (NSW) Police Force have also successfully destroyed over 366 tonnes of illicit tobacco that was set to be used in funding organised crime.

“This recent seizure by ITTF clearly proves the viability and effectiveness of multi-agency task force of this nature. However, in Malaysia, the Multi-Agency Task Force (MATF) that was established since January 2020 to curtail the illegal cigarettes trade has been far from effective,” RTBA Malaysia managing director Datuk Fazli Nordin commented.

He also mentioned that according to the Illicit Cigarette Study conducted by NIELSEN in December 2020, Malaysia currently has the highest penetration of illicit cigarettes in the world, with about 63.8% of the cigarettes being sold in the country are illegal.

In his Budget 2021 speech, Finance Minister promised to strengthen the MATF even further, which initially consisted of the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, the Royal Malaysian Police, the Health Ministry and the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry.

“Strengthening the MATF with other agencies is well and good, but there are no further reports on MATF’s plan of action, initiatives conducted or even if a task force meeting has taken place to address the out of control illegal cigarettes trade,” Fazli complained.

On that note, RTBA Malaysia proposes that the MATF should first set clear achievable objectives to reduce the illegal cigarette trade.

Fazli also highlighted that the Government must also be supportive of the role and significance of the MATF by providing the task force with the right resources, including sufficient funding, training and equipment for it to deliver.

“The MATF cannot function without political will and financial support. (At the same time), the Government must do all that it can to protect its revenue by preventing unnecessary leakages. The illegal cigarettes trade is an RM5 bil tax annual tax leakage that the MATF must do all it can to plug,” he concluded. – Apr 2, 2021

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