Military radar equipment seized at Malaysian port went to Rotterdam without proper paperwork

A high-tech military consignment has gone missing from a port in Johor, prompting an investigation by the Customs Department and International Trade and Industry Ministry. The radar equipment, worth millions of ringgit, was being shipped from Austral
A high-tech military consignment has gone missing from a port in Johor, prompting an investigation by the Customs Department and International Trade and Industry Ministry. The radar equipment, worth millions of ringgit, was being shipped from Australia to the Netherlands via Malaysia. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

JOHOR BARU (The Star/Asia News Network) - Malaysian authorities are investigating how a consignment of high-tech military radar equipment worth millions of ringgit left the Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor without having the requisite permits. 

The equipment-which was en route from Australia to the Netherlands via Malaysia-was detained at the port last month (May 2017) for not having the necessary permits. 

It was reported earlier that the consignment was found to be missing on a recent audit check at the port, and a police report was then lodged in June. 

However the customs department has clarified that the equipment is not missing. According to a statement issued by the Director General of Customs Subromaniam Tholasy on Thursday (June 29), the shipment had arrived at its intended destination of Rotterdam, in the Netherlands and that an internal probe was being carried out on whether standard operating procedures were adhered to when the consignment was released from the Johor port.

The statement did not specify when the shipment arrived in Rotterdam.

Sources said Customs officials detained the radar systems shortly after the consignment arrived from Australia last month.

The items, all packed in one container, were supposed to be shipped to the Netherlands via Johor but did not have the necessary permits, which led to their unexpected detention.

All military equipment being shipped out of, or in transit at any Malaysian port, requires a special permit from Miti under the Strategic Trade Act 2010.

No such permit or other supporting documents were produced when requested by port and Customs officials, a source told The Star.

Sources added that it would not have been easy for the equipment to be removed by ground transport because of strict checks at the entry and exit points of the port.

Johor’s Mentri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin said on Thursday that the state government wants authorities to get to the bottom of the case as it would affect investors’ trust in the state.

“The authorities need to provide answers on what happened and whether it was an inside job,” he told reporters at his Hari Raya open house at the Pasir Gudang indoor stadium.

Meanwhile Liew Chin Tong, the opposition MP for Kluang, Johor in a statement called for a proper investigation by an independent body, “instead of just relying on internal investigation by the Customs department and Ministry of International Trade.”

Penalties for contravening the Strategic Trade Act are heavy, with fines reaching RM10 million (S$3.2 million), while those convicted can also face the death penalty, sources added.