Bid to smuggle 'missile rockets' foiled

Various types of firecrackers being sold in Malaysia.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

ALOR SETAR - Instead of those tiny whistling 'moon traveller' fireworks, smugglers this year tried to sneak in 'missile rockets' almost a metre long each.

There were 35 rockets in packs of five each with black 'missile tips' about 30cm long, and they were thrown into a lorry along with 164 boxes of firecrackers and assorted night-flowers.

Enforcers from the state Royal Malaysian Customs Department stopped the lorry along the North-South Expressway near Penang at 2.55pm on Tuesday and were stunned when they looked inside and found the contraband sitting in plain sight.

"The packs and cartons of firecrackers and fireworks were not covered, disguised or hidden beneath other goods," state Customs director Datuk Johari Alifiah told a press conference here yesterday.

The seizure was worth RM141,660 (S$45,881), said Johari, with RM83,579 in unpaid taxes.

He said it was a Malaysian lorry and the driver was a local man in his 30s.

"There is a possibility that the driver picked up the goods after they were smuggled in through rat-trails scattered along the border of Malaysia and Thailand," he said.

Rat trails are illegal border crossings that are often no more than foot paths in the forest.

They were initially used by villagers living on both sides of the porous border, but syndicates are known to use them to smuggle people and goods to either side.

Johari said the lorry driver was arrested and later released on bail.

The department is also checking to see if he had actually driven through the border with the goods.

He also said that since the start of Ramadan, the department had foiled 10 attempts to smuggle fireworks worth RM258,098 including unpaid taxes in the department's operation code named Ops Raya 2017.

"The cases will be investigated under Section 135 (1)(e) of the Customs Act 1967 for carrying prohibited goods, an offence under Section 135 of the same act,"

He said all the contraband seized were believed to be headed for Kuala Lumpur.

He urged the public to channel information on smuggling to the department's hotline 1800-888-855 or 04-7751212.

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