Tuesday, January 03, 2012

For RM10, smugglers can breeze in and out

Corruption is rampant among law enforcers at border checkpoints

FOR a paltry sum, enforcement officers manning the country’s border checkpoints can be bought to provide smugglers a hassle-free passage.

Intelligence reports, backed by three years of surveillance by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, have revealed that the “buying” involved the lowest-ranking personnel right up to their bosses — who all guaranteed a pass through various levels of security checks.

The New Straits Times team, which joined several surveillance operations recently, found out the “rates” at the Rantau Panjang checkpoint.

It starts at RM10 at the front-most line, which is usually manned by General Operations Force (GOF) officers, while their Customs counterparts would accept RM50 or RM100 to allow a smuggler in and out of the country.

Officers from the Anti-Smuggling Unit would haggle for a fee of between RM10 and RM40. With Road Transport Department staff, however, smugglers would have to deal directly with their “boss”.

After paying between RM100 and RM150, the team was given a small sticker for the “smuggling vehicle”.
Smugglers with such stickers would be “protected”. Goods that are smuggled include RON 95 petrol, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas.

With cash in small denominations, our van, loaded with contraband rice and other taxable goods, breezed through every checkpoint.

Surveillance at the Rantau Panjang border showed that from 6am to 10pm daily, between 50 and 100 vehicles freely moved goods in and out of the country.

A source said there would be at least four levels of security at the borders at any one time, but most of the officers (GOF, RTD, Customs and Anti-Smuggling Unit) were on the take.

Although Immigration Department officers were not involved, they failed to check the travel documents of those passing through the checkpoints.

“This is more than just about revenue or subsidised goods and losses for the country. Weapons and drugs could easily be smuggled into the country.

“The corruption is so deep-rooted that only a major shake-up of these checkpoints can rectify the problem,” said the source, adding that the authorities at the federal level should consider a more frequent rotation of officers.

At present, officers take about a year at their stations to get comfortable with the smugglers.

The NST was also made to understand that joint operations to arrest enforcement officers were difficult because details of the operations would be leaked.

The source said the “strong bond” between law enforcers and smugglers was hard to break, and they would never snitch on each other.

But operations by graft-busters had recently resulted in some of these officers being charged in court. However, a few GOF officers caught on tape taking bribes were only disciplined by their department and reassigned to other duties.

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