PETALING JAYA • Smugglers who transport vehicle fuel from northern Malaysian into Thailand are coming up with ingenious ways to fool the authorities.
Some build an extra fuel tank disguised as the back seat of a vehicle, others hide the tanks below the car's frame, or build them inside vans. There are also those who convert the space for spare tyres into fuel tanks, or the frames of motorcycles and even car bumpers.
The illegal work pays off due to the large difference in the pump prices of fuel in Malaysia and Thailand, with Malaysia battling fuel smugglers for years.
The Star newspaper says pump prices in Malaysia are the cheapest in Asean. A litre of petrol at the pump in Malaysia goes for RM2.30 (S$0.73), against RM4.10 in Thailand for a similar grade.
In the first 11 months of last year, nine fuel smuggling cases were recorded, with 54,307 litres of petrol worth RM65,168 and 79,705 litres of diesel worth RM95,646 seized, officials say.
Petrol seized in the first 11 months of last year - worth RM65,168.
Diesel seized in the same period - worth RM95,646.
Customs department assistant director-general (enforcement) Paddy Abdul Halim said its officers at the border work closely with the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry against diesel and petrol smugglers.
On Nov 6, the ministry's enforcement division raided two illegal fuel storage facilities in northern Kedah, and seized 55,000 litres of diesel and 18,000 litres of petrol worth about RM135,000.
These illegal facilities store the fuel that is siphoned off later by smaller vehicles like cars and vans. The smugglers pay a margin above the prices charged at Malaysian petrol stations, and then drive off into southern Thailand if border control officers miss spotting the hidden fuel tanks.
The ministry's Kedah enforcement chief Shahrudin Hamzah said a lorry driver was caught red-handed transferring diesel to one of the tanks at the first facility raided.
The suspect was detained along with another man who was in charge of the fuel store.
"The suspect can be fined not more than RM1 million or jailed three years, while the company can be fined up to RM2 million," he said.
Cooking oil from Malaysia is also smuggled across the border due to the big difference in shelf prices.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK