KUALA LUMPUR - The Customs Department has issued a strict reminder to traders to stop selling illegal cigarettes or face punishment.
The warning went out as the department prepared to intensify its nationwide Op Outlet crackdown to curb the sale and distribution of illegal cigarettes.
Since the launch of the operation on March 5, 43,353 packets of illegal cigarettes have been seized while 22 traders, aged between 20 and 50, were detained.
As many as 11 store managers and traders were sentenced to jail for possession of illegal cigarettes during raids in Seremban, Kota Baru, Bahau and Klang.
Customs deputy director-general (enforcement and compliance) Datuk Matrang Suhaili said the department was intensifying its crackdown to ensure the distribution network for illegal cigarettes was crippled.
He said Op Outlet would continue until December with the cooperation of the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry to reduce the sale of illegal cigarettes by at least 30 per cent.
"Besides the nationwide operations, we have also distributed fliers and posters to sundry shops containing reminders and warnings for traders." Op Outlet was first introduced in February 2010, with raids conducted on 36,648 premises and 6,440 recorded cases.
The Customs Department seized cigarettes worth more than RM59 million, while 4,744 people were detained and 752 were charged in court.
Meanwhile, wholesalers and retailers associations have pledged to work closely with the Customs Department in its action against illegal cigarette sales.
Malaysia Muslim Wholesalers and Retailers Association president Amanullah Maideen said his 800 members were committed to assisting the Customs Department in achieving its target.
"We hope the Customs Department will have a meeting with all the traders and retailers associations nationwide to ensure the success of its operation."
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said his members had been informed not to be a part of the illegal cigarette trade and to help the authorities.
"Illegal cigarette trading is against the law and must be dealt with comprehensively. The public must play their part, too, by not purchasing illegal cigarettes. They should report the act to the authorities instead."
Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association chief activist Datuk Nadzim Johan urged Muslim consumers to view illegal cigarette trading from a larger perspective.
"Yes, illegal cigarettes are cheaper, but they also contain a lot of dangerous toxins. It also affects the country's economy."
Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akhbar Satar said the tactics adopted by illegal cigarette traders to remain undetected would eventually be sniffed out by the authorities.