PETALING JAYA - Despite the recent hikes, petrol prices in Malaysia remain the cheapest in the region and smugglers are sending the fuel across the northern border by the thousands of litres.
And they are coming up with ingenious ways to fool the authorities.
They have converted spare tyres, frames of motorcycles and even car bumpers into fuel containers.
Modified extra fuel tanks in the seats of vehicles, boots and bonnets and below the body are also very popular tactics.
Although the fuel subsidy was scrapped two years ago, petrol and diesel continued to be smuggled across the Thai border from Malaysia.
After the subsidies were removed, the prices of petrol and diesel were set on a managed float system on Dec 1, 2014.
The floating fuel prices were supposed to bridge the gap in fuel prices between Malaysia and Thailand to curb smuggling.
The current prices per litre for RON95 and RON97 are RM2.30 (S$0.75) and RM2.60 while the price of diesel is RM2.15 following a 20 sen increase in fuel prices this month.
In Thailand, Shell E20 Gasohol costs 25.19 baht (RM3.17) per litre, Shell FuelSave Gasohol91 costs 27.43 baht (RM3.45) per litre, Shell FuelSave Diesel 26.44 baht (RM3.33), Shell V-Power Nitro+ Gasohol 95 31.52 baht (RM3.97) and Shell V-Power Nitro+ Diesel 29.93baht (RM3.77) per litre.
The cheaper fuel on this side of the border is a magnet for smugglers and enforcement agencies along the border have to remain alert.
Customs assistant director general (enforcement) Datuk Paddy Abdul Halim said their officers at the border worked closely with The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry against diesel and petrol smugglers.
On Nov 6, the ministry's enforcement division raided two illegal fuel storage facilities at Bukit Kayu Hitam Industrial Zone, and seized 55,000 litres of diesel and 18,000 litres of petrol worth about RM135,000.
The ministry's Kedah enforcement chief Shahrudin Hamzah said the raids were conducted after a tip off from the public.
He said a lorry driver was caught red-handed transferring diesel to one of the tanks at the first facility.
The suspect from Nibong Tebal, Penang, was detained along with another man who was in charge of the fuel store.
Shahrudin said the ministry was tracing the owner of the two illegal fuel stores.
Shahrudin added that the owner of the store handed over the operation of the store to another individual who is believed to have continued the business without a licence.
"The suspect can be fined not more than RM1mil or jailed three years, while the company can be fined up to RM2mil.
Between January and November last year, nine fuel smuggling cases were recorded and 54,307 litres of petrol worth RM65,168 and 79,705 litres of diesel worth RM95,646 were seized.