PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian man was arrested in New Zealand today in what is billed as the “largest-ever tobacco seizure in a single shipment” after attempting to smuggle 2.2 million cigarettes worth NZ$2.72 million (RM7.7 million).
New Zealand Customs said they identified the shipment that was sent from Malaysia which arrived in mid-July.
The shipment was declared to contain 175 “roof extension units”, but an examination found stacks of metal frames hiding cigarette cartons, comprising a total of 2,208,000 cigarettes.
The shipment was imported under a registered trading company, of which the suspect is the director.
Customs’ group leader Dana McDonald said the seizure was yet another example of organised crime involvement in tobacco fraud.
“This shipment showed a layer of sophistication in its concealment, and a deliberate attempt to evade tobacco taxes,” McDonald said in a statement.
“This does not come as a surprise as Customs have been making an increasing number of tobacco seizures in recent years that bear the hallmarks of organised crime.
“Criminals will do whatever they can to make money, regardless of the commodity – it’s just business for them. With cigarette prices in New Zealand among the highest globally, tobacco fraud is seen as a lucrative business venture for criminals, and sadly, we expect this trend to continue.
“The public can be assured that Customs will continue to make significant efforts to prevent criminal activity and hold offenders to account so they stop their illegal activities.”
The suspect faces charges under the Customs & Excise Act for defrauding Customs revenue and making an erroneous import entry.
Further charges may follow as the probe is ongoing.