Smugglers fly Singapore flag in bid to trick authorities

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency officers yesterday showing the media some of the cigarettes that were seized from the boat on Saturday. Nine Indonesian crew members from the boat were arrested.
Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency officers yesterday showing the media some of the cigarettes that were seized from the boat on Saturday. Nine Indonesian crew members from the boat were arrested. PHOTO: BERNAMA

Malaysian officials' seizure of $841,850 of illegal cigarettes and liquor is biggest in Johor waters

JOHOR BARU • The Malaysian authorities in Johor have foiled an attempt to smuggle various brands of cigarettes and liquor valued at RM2.5 million (S$841,850) into the country by boat, the Bernama news agency reported.

The seizure of the contraband was the biggest so far in the waters of Johor, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency's (MMEA) southern region director Abu Bakar Idris said yesterday.

A team from the agency on Saturday intercepted the boat, which had flown the Singapore flag in an attempt to trick the authorities, at around 6pm, about 1.9 nautical miles off Tanjung Piai in Pontian.

"The MMEA team on patrol became suspicious upon spotting the boat anchored in the waters. A check on the boat revealed 916,500 cartons of cigarettes and 3,048 bottles of liquor of various brands hidden under canvas sheets," Datuk Abu Bakar said.

The MMEA said it had arrested nine Indonesian crew members from the boat and seized the contraband. "We arrested the nine crew (members), including the skipper, all aged between 25 and 53. All of them had passports, but the skipper failed to present the relevant documents," he said to reporters.

"We will continue to step up patrols in the waters of Johor to curb widespread smuggling and other crimes," he said.

The Straits Times reported last week that the Indonesian authorities had captured a fishing boat, also flying a Singapore flag, that was smuggling one tonne of crystal methamphetamine in 41 rice sacks off the waters of Batam Island.

A team from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency on Saturday intercepted the boat, which had flown the Singapore flag in an attempt to trick the authorities, at around 6pm, about 1.9 nautical miles off Tanjung Piai in Pontian.

The smugglers, using the boat MV Sunrise Glory, were first spotted by Indonesian navy patrol KRI Sigurot 864 on Wednesday afternoon as they entered Indonesian waters along the Singapore Strait.

It was stopped and boarded by navy personnel for inspection in the Phillip Channel near islands off Batam.

While the boat was flying a Singapore flag at the time, its crew were able to produce only photocopied registration documents purportedly from Indonesia.

Indonesian Customs officers, with the help of sniffer dogs, later found the drugs on board.

A Taiwanese flag was also discovered, and the crew of four Taiwanese citizens is now being held and investigated for operating the boat under various false flags for illegal fishing or drug smuggling.

Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau said yesterday that the boat is not registered here, but in Taiwan as Shun De Man No. 66.

It added that preliminary investigations by the Indonesian authorities showed that at the time of interception, the Taiwanese syndicate had used the fictitious name Sunrise Glory and falsely flown the Singapore flag.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2018, with the headline 'Smugglers fly S'pore flag in bid to trick authorities'. Print Edition | Subscribe