KOTA KINABALU: An attempt to smuggle contraband cigarettes found inside banana-filled gunny sacks from a neighbouring country into Tawau has been foiled by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) on Friday (Feb 3).

A 33-year-old local skipper was found in the boat with the 28,000 rolls of cigarettes estimated to be worth RM18,000 at about 0.5 nautical miles south from the Tawau CIQ jetty at 6am.

A 48-year-old Indonesian woman passenger was also in the boat that was coming from Pulau Sebatik towards the jetty, Tawau MMEA director Maritime Capt Shahrizan Raman said in a statement here.

“Based on intelligence about smuggling activities of untaxed cigarettes at the jetty, our patrol boat made its way there to trace the suspect and the vessel.

“When the boat nearing the jetty was stopped to be inspected, the team found the cigarettes hidden inside gunny sacks filled with bananas, believed to be smuggled in for the local market.

“The skipper and the passenger as well as the boat and cigarettes were handed over to the maritime investigating officer for further investigation under Section 135(1)(d) of Customs Act 1967.

“The total seizure including the boat and the engine is RM43,000,” he added.

He also said that enforcement and patrolling will be done from time to time to curb any cross-border crimes in Tawau waters, and information about criminal activities can be channelled to their operation centre at 089-750116 or MERS 999.