Anwar 'saddened' by corruption, says alleged smuggling case cost M'sian govt over S$570 million

61 people were arrested last week in relation to alleged smuggling offences.

Emily Williams | April 01, 2024, 03:53 PM

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has shared his disappointment after the Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) uncovered smuggling activities of a syndicate at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

The case is said to have caused losses of more than RM2 billion (S$570 million) to the Malaysian government, according to the New Straits Times.

Operation Samba 2.0

On Friday (Mar. 29), MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki said 34 law enforcement personnel and 27 individuals and company owners aged between 30 and 50-years-old were arrested for their alleged involvement in smuggling activities at KLIA Cargo, Sepang, according to The Sun.

The New Straits Times reported contraband items including chewing tobacco, cigarettes, alcohol, health products, and vehicle spare parts were allegedly passed through customs without being checked or declared, in exchange for bribes worth up to RM4.7 million ($S1.3 million).

"An examination of import documents (K1) involving the syndicate-owned importing companies indicate the government has lost between RM1.5 billion [S$428 million] to RM2 billion [S$570 million] in revenue over two years," said Azam.

However, because the syndicate has been operating since 2017, the losses are expected to be over RM2 billion (S$570 million).

The arrests were a part of Operation Samba 2.0, a collaboration between the MACC, the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), and Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), to combat corrupt activities of enforcement agency officers who protect smuggling activities.

Corruption shouldn't be underestimated

In the Prime Minister’s Department monthly address on Apr. 1, Anwar commented publicly on the scandal.

According to The Star, he said the losses were substantial.

“We are doing all we can to curb corruption and power abuse.

Although we scored several wins, there are still cases which affect and sadden me, such as the one involving the Customs Department."

He then emphasised the importance of "act[ing] on leakages" in order to "save billions of ringgit".

Malaysiakini reported Anwar said, according to the MACC, no senior government officers or officials have been involved in cases of corruption.

Top image from Anwar Ibrahim's X (formerly Twitter).