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New strategies are needed to tackle illicit trade in Malaysia

Publish date: Thu, 23 Dec 2021, 06:38 PM

STEP up border security with the latest state-of-the-art technology and new strategies to disrupt illicit traders’ supply chain to deter them from using Malaysia as their main market or transit point, said a well-known legal columnist in a statement today.

His comments came following the recently amended the Customs Act of 1967, where the Government increased the penalties for illicit traders under Section 135 of the Act.

“The Government has made the right move. However, will increased penalties dissuade illicit traders from engaging in illicit activity? It remains questionable,” commented R. Paneir Selvam, who is senior lecturer at HELP University Faculty of Business, Economics and Accounting and Institute Crime and Criminology.

“The position on economic crime legislation must be reconsidered right now. This is because the current economic downturn, along with the COVID-19 outbreak, will give a window of opportunity for these illicit traders to ramp up their operations and profit handsomely.”

According to Paneir, the current law requires the prosecution to prove a prima facie case against the accused. The accused must throw doubt on the prosecution’s evidence in order to be acquitted.

“This approach is best suited for traditional crimes such as murder or robbery,” he added.

“For economic crimes such as fraud, bribery, corruption, or unlawful goods trading, the burden of proof should be moved to the accused rather than the prosecution, as the UK Fraud Act 2006 does.

“This is because the origin of the goods comes from one country and the said items are marketed in another, and this form of crime is usually committed by organised crime.

“So, for example, contraband cigarettes are smuggled from Indonesia and sold in Malaysia. Therefore, it is the Government’s responsibility to plug the loopholes in the system by pursuing them aggressively.”

Paneir further lauded the Government’s recent investment in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drones to monitor the porous border as part of ‘Ops Benteng’.

“It is time to put these investments into better use like expanding the borders surveillance beyond illegal immigrants and include other illegal activities like the smuggling of contraband cigarettes,” he noted.

“We must realise that these criminals are always thinking outside the box to continue their lucrative trade despite the risk.

“As a result, lawmakers and enforcement agency officers must think like them to combat this crime, which not only harms our country’s economy but also its reputation and people’s health.”

Paneir also said that the continued law reinforcement that gives relevant authorities more power as well as the use of cutting-edge technology to equip the agencies’ officers will maximise the chances of deterring the smugglers.

“These authorities must be transparent and accountable if any of their officers collide with such smugglers, and such errant officers must face stiff consequences,” he concluded. – Dec 23, 2021

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