MIRI - Contraband cigarettes with a street value of RM33 million (S$12 million) and unpaid taxes amounting to RM4.8 million have been confiscated from a cargo vessel near here.
The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), which made the seizure, believes that the smuggling activity was run by a syndicate involving local masterminds in Sarawak but with potential international connections.
MMEA Sarawak director Ismaili Bujang Pit told a press conference yesterday that the agency discovered the smuggling operations about 3.5 nautical miles offshore last Tuesday and investigations revealed that there could be high-profile masterminds involved.
"There were six large containers on board the ship and inside them were more than 27 million cigarettes.
"The ship operator was a local and the ship was registered in Sibu. However, all its five crew members were Myanmar nationals.
"They had no documents to show they had permit for the cigarettes," he said.
The MMEA is trying to determine the source of the cigarettes and who are the intended buyers.
The ship has been hauled to a jetty along the Miri River and the suspects have been remanded and will be brought to court soon.