KOTA KINABALU: Authorities thwarted two attempts to smuggle out a total of 1,250 litres of subsidised petrol in Semporna waters early Saturday (July 9) morning.
A Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) team came upon the attempts at two separate locations during a routine patrol under Ops Pluto Timur.
MMEA Semporna zone director Maritime Captain Norrimi Hassan said in a statement on Sunday (July 10) that the incidents involved two boats with outboard engines.
The first discovery was made at 2.30am.
“The first suspicious vessel movement was traced about 2.4 nautical miles (4.44km) north of Terumbu Pasalat.
“When approached, the skipper jumped into the sea to flee and left behind the unregistered boat, containing 625 litres of petrol believed meant to be smuggled into a neighbouring country.
“Another boat with a local registration number was intercepted 1.1 nautical miles (2.03km) north of Tg Panto-Panto in Semporna waters.
“The skipper also fled by abandoning the boat and swimming to shallow waters,” said Capt Norrimi.
Inspection of the second vessel also found 625 litres of petrol on board.
Both boats were towed to the Semporna district maritime jetty and handed over to the investigating officer.
“The total value of seized items including boats and outboard engines is nearly RM23,000.
“The case is being investigated under the Control of Supplies Act 1961, and a further probe is being carried out to trace the boat owners and mastermind behind these activities.
“If convicted, culprits can be fined up to RM100,000 or jailed up to three years, or both,” he added.
He said the Semporna MMEA team will continue to step up its patrols and enforcement at hotspots, especially along the country’s maritime borders, to curb smuggling attempts and the entry of undocumented immigrants by sea.
Those with information on maritime crimes may forward them to the Semporna Maritime Zone operation centre at 089-782 619 or MERS 999, he said.