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Enforcement agencies need more resources to tackle illicit cigarette trade, not new laws

Enforcement agencies need more resources to tackle illicit cigarette trade, not new laws

KUALA LUMPUR, 19 MAY 2021 – The federal government needs to focus on supporting enforcement agencies with adequate resources to tackle the illicit cigarette trade that is expected to become more aggressive with the reopening of borders, says the President of E-Cure Sdn Bhd, a consultant company in Economic Crime Control and former State Police Chief of Sarawak, Datuk Dr Yusoff Nook.

Datuk Dr. Yusoff said for the past couple of years, the government has rightly placed emphasis on ensuring the people’s survival and welfare by allocating more resources towards fighting the pandemic and aid programmes.

“The government has implemented policy changes to combat the illicit cigarette trade like the ban on transhipment of cigarettes, and this is commendable, but the syndicates are circumventing government measures every day as we speak as illicit cigarettes are still widely available in the market.

“We need more resources to put an end to the illicit cigarette trade that not only poses a threat to the health and wellbeing of the rakyat but severely affects the government’s already strained revenue streams,” said Datuk Dr. Yusoff.

Enforcement stretched

“So, our enforcement teams on the ground will be more stretched. They need more resources. As we know, they are already struggling with budget constraints and a lack of manpower to enforce against smuggling activities,” he said, adding there is a need for more cross-border intelligence sharing between countries.

Datuk Dr. Yusoff said economic crime leakages cost the government some RM300 billion a year, money that could be channelled towards critical infrastructure and programmes for the people, particularly those in the bottom 40 (B40).

He said this was why the government must focus on backing enforcement agencies by enhancing funding for manpower, training and equipment, particularly sophisticated monitoring and intelligence-gathering devices like listening posts for enforcers to ensure our porous borders, especially coastal areas, are properly guarded.

“Current laws are already adequate to arrest and charge perpetrators of illicit trade. Even the Ministry of Health has broad enforcement power to take action against those selling contraband cigarettes which are below the mandated minimum price.” he explained. 

 New prohibition type laws such as banning  the sale of cigarettes will only add more burden to law enforcement agencies,”  

“The Government should focus its attention and spend towards providing law enforcement agencies with adequate funds and tools to fight illicit trade instead establishing another set of new laws that may potentially incentivise criminal syndicates,” he concluded.