Customs to probe possible ‘inside job’ in RM5m drug bust

Customs department DG T Subromaniam (4th from right) with Sabah Customs director Hamzah Sundang (5th from right) and other senior Customs officers showing the drugs seized in Sandakan.

KOTA KINABALU: The Customs Department is looking at the possibility of an inside job in connection with the seizure of drugs valued at more than RM5 million from the Sandakan airport last Tuesday.

Customs officers detained five men, aged between 19 and 26, who were found with five bags containing over 102.99kg of methamphetamine, in what is the biggest anti-drug bust in the state this year thus far.

The suspects had just landed in Sandakan at 9.35am after a taking an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur. They tried to resist arrest after being found with the drugs, with the bust being recorded by the public and viralled on WhatsApp.

Customs director-general T Subromaniam has instructed an internal probe to find out how the drugs could have slipped through customs at klia2 undetected.

“What is surprising is the drugs came in from KL and not from out of the country. Our probe now also centres around internal aspects as well as the drug syndicates involved.

“The Customs Department views this seriously because normally, domestic travel is considered low risk,” he told a media conference at the Customs headquarters in Sandakan today.

Subromaniam also believed drug syndicates have changed their tactics, looking at domestic flights now to evade detection due to the rigid checks on international passengers and items.

Part of the 102kg of drugs worth an estimated RM5 million, seized by Customs officers at Sandakan airport.

“They (syndicates) know we have strict checks for international flights and are starting to use domestic flights to traffic drugs if they had first made it through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

“The Customs Department has issued an order to carry out detailed screenings on domestic flights, especially flights from KL to Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

He added the department possessed high-tech scanners at airports as well as a management system to identify high-risk passengers.

In the bust on Tuesday, the suspects behaved strangely when approached by Customs officers for a check.

“Even before their bags were opened, the suspects became nervous and tried to make a run for it,” Subromaniam said, adding his officers including two women staff quickly overpowered and detained the men.

He said the suspects had hoped to escape detection by wrapping the drugs in four layers of plastic, carbon paper and aluminium foil but were found out because of the high-tech scanners.

The suspects have been remanded 12 days for investigations under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries a mandatory death sentence by hanging on conviction.