The next time you light up a contraband cigarette, you may be funding organised crime syndicates or, worse, terrorist organisations.
Investigators have revealed to the New Straits Times that regional terrorist organisation such as Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah could be getting funding from local organised crime gangs.
The Home Ministry and crime prevention groups have begun drawing links to these organisations and the thriving illicit cigarette business that last year alone cost the government in excess of RM2 billion in lost taxes.
"There is a chance that these terrorist organisations, including global terror groups such as al-Qaeda, are using local organised crime gangs to help them finance their operations.
"It's also possible that they are using Malaysia as a base to fund their activities," said Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Crime analyst Kamal Affendi Hashim said illicit tobacco trafficking was the most attractive option for cartels to fund their illegal activities. "Looking at the billions lost by the government in revenue and the number of smuggled contraband cigarettes, one has to conclude that this is beyond the capacity of a single individual.
"The bigger organisations are involved simply because they need more money to fund their operations. "You need an international network," Kamal Affendi said, suggesting that cross-cells collaboration may be at work. Kamal Affendi added that some gangs would "expose" a less profitable vice activity on purpose to law enforcement officers to keep them "busy" while they focus on the main activity, which is cigarette smuggling.
"It's a parallel activity. It's a case of sacrificing the weaker baby so that attention is diverted from the main activity. "The members have the necessary network, connections and the know-how to move large shipments right under the noses of the authorities. Despite the enforcement coming down hard on the individuals involved, cartels couldn't be bothered as the penalty is almost laughable, compared with the amount of money they can make from this."
He said that crime syndicates and terrorist organisations were increasingly looking at this revenue stream to fund their activities because of the "low risk-huge profits" nature of the business.