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The corruption is at the top level, the number 3 man also got murdered for exposing corruption in the Customs Department


Justice for ‘Mr Clean’

R. Nadeswaran

“My father’s murder was planned. It was related to a car smuggling syndicate in Langkawi. My father had previously told his superiors of corrupt customs officers in their midst, claiming that they were linked to a car smuggling racket.”
Mohd Akhtar Shaharuddin, the son of Royal Malaysian Customs deputy director-general II Datuk Shaharuddin Ibrahim who was shot dead in Putrajaya on April 26.

THESE remarks were not made out of vengeance or retribution. They came from a man who wants his father’s killer(s) to be brought to justice.

However, reading deeper into these annotations and through personal observations and investigations, one cannot help believing that these words have more than a semblance of truth.

A month before Shaharuddin was gunned down, the Customs Department issued a statement that 368 Langkawi-registered vehicles are running in the rest of Malaysia with suspected forged customs declaration forms.

“We have detected 368 vehicles originally registered in Langkawi and subsequently registered in Principal Customs Areas using suspected falsified custom declaration forms without payment of customs duties and taxes,” it said on March 21.

(Areas outside of Langkawi and Labuan, it said, were known as Principal Customs Areas.)

It added that it had seized 76 vehicles “for further investigation” and was tracking the remainder. This, according to sources sent many people running helter-skelter to get their cars back on the island.

Cars bought on the island are free of import taxes and excise duties and after five years, they can be brought to the mainland after paying taxes on its depreciated value.

On a trip to Langkawi last year, the numbers of luxury cars on the road were scarce. A handful of Hummers and Porsches were seen on the road but the statistics show otherwise.

For the first seven months of last year, a total of 165 luxury cars were registered on the island:
Lexus – 46
Porsche – 56
Ferrari – 22
Jaguar – 10
BMW – 10
Mercedes – 21

Locals said that many people buy the cars and store them on the island and use them when they come on holidays. Otherwise, there are all under the tarpaulin to be “taken to the mainland”.

So, what did Shaharuddin discover? A number of dealers working hand in glove with crooked customs officers were bringing in cars from the island without paying the appropriate duties.

But Mohd Akhtar made some telling points:
The mastermind was someone in the customs department;
Shaharuddin had told his superiors of corrupt customs officers who were involved in the scam; and
Subsequently, on reporting the wrongdoers, he received a transfer order;

The order was rescinded after the Customs Officers’ Union intervened and fought his case.

These charges are serious indeed. If he was penalised for whistleblowing on his own officers, then that is something that needs looking into by the highest of authorities.

There are two issues of public concern – one is the murder itself and the second is the export of cars without paying the duties.

Since Shaharuddin was Number 3 in the hierarchy, his complaint must have gone to those above him. What action did they take against the errant officers who aided and abetted in this unjustifiable exercise of depriving the government of the revenue?

Was Shaharuddin’s reporting that led to the seizure of the cars on the mainland? If so, who were the perpetrators of this fraud? Were they brought to book and were those who bought these cars knowingly prosecuted for cheating on taxes?

Shaharuddin served the department for over 30 years where his work earned him the moniker “Mr Clean”. His yeoman service and diligence to the country would go to waste if his killers and those associated with the smuggling of the cars get away or with a slap on their wrists.

R. Nadeswaran is editor (special and investigative reporting) at theSun. Comments:

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