KUALA LUMPUR – The Royal Malaysian Customs Department’s National Targeting Centre which has been operating since last year, has thus far, been successful in exposing illicit and terrorism financing.
Although reluctant to share the number of cases, Customs director-general Datuk Seri T. Subromaniam said the system enabled the department, among others, to detect items suspiciously overvalued that might lead to money-laundering activities to fund such activities.
“(The) Bigger issue here is terrorists need source of funds to basically fund their activities, one of the important source of funds is via trade, this is what we call trade-based money laundering. (Under this method) Trade can be used or disguised to launder money.
“For example, someone imports certain goods and the goods can be over-valued, by several times. The only competent authority which knows that the confinement had been overvalued is the Customs (Department),” he told a press conference on the sidelines of the 3rd Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit here today.
Other than the price factor, Subromaniam said the other denominator used to look out for ‘red flags’ through the system was the exporter and the importer, and their link with the items exported or imported.
“For example, if the importer has nothing to do with agriculture, why would they want to import fertilisers?,” he asked.
On the measures taken, Subromaniam said the department among others, had the authority to freeze a suspect’s account under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLA).
“Basically under customs law, there are two sections that relate to money laundering offences, which are the incorrect information and smuggling offence.
“Incorrect declaration, it actually covers everything, for instance you bring something and you declared something else, that would be caught under Section 133 which is a serious offence under AMLA; similarly, any smuggling offence,” he said.
On whether the department could easily detect terrorism financing through the import-export trade, Subromaniam said it could do that by tracking all the trade trails.
“We really need to go beyond the trade aspect to see where the money goes, where the money ends up, to whom the money is sent. That one, the police and the Bank Negara will be able to assist.
“What we usually do, we become the provider of the information, sometimes we do work with them,” he added. – BERNAMA