The contraband cigarettes found on a vessel at Bintulu Port.

KUCHING: The Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMC) has seized a whopping 70,960,000 sticks of smuggled cigarettes.

The contraband was worth RM6.3mil, with unpaid duties totalling about RM47.4mil.

Datuk Sharifah Halimah Tuanku Taha

Sarawak Customs director Datuk Sharifah Halimah Tuanku Taha said an operation was initiated following a tip-off.

Customs personnel searched a vessel that arrived at Bintulu Port around 11.30pm on June 12.

Following a review of the cargo manifest submitted by the ship captain, it was found that 129 containers were not listed, including seven suspected of containing regular cigarettes.

“At 1pm on June 13, all seven containers, suspected of carrying regular cigarettes, were ordered to be grounded at Bintulu Port for inspection.

“Upon inspection, the seven containers were found to store cigarettes of various brands that had not been approved by Customs,” she said in a statement on Thursday (June 18).

Sharifah said the contraband cigarettes were shipped into the state using commercial vessels before being sent to other destinations through Bintulu Port.

“This is to prevent the activity being detected by the authorities,” she said, adding that the items were declared in the manifest as general cargo and the importing company was a registered shipping agent.

The case is being investigated under Section 133 (1) (a) of the Customs Act 1967, which carries a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both.

RMC appealed to the public to cooperate by providing information on smuggling activities by calling its toll-free line 1-800-88-8855 or the public complaint website at http://aduan.customs.gov.my or contact any of the nearest Customs office.