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Minister of Health and People’s Wellbeing, Stephen Wong in the press conference at Wisma Tun Fuad Stephens here today. SNT Pix/Chris Maskilone

KOTA KINABALU: The State government is embarking on an aggressive enforcement campaign to crackdown on illicit alcohols in Sabah as an immediate reaction to the alcohol poisoning incidents in Peninsular Malaysia.

Minister of Health and People’s Wellbeing, Stephen Wong said that based on information from sources about 60 per cent of the beers in Sabah are illicit.

In East Malaysia alone, he said illicit beers made up of almost 800,000 hectoliters or roughly 246,153 cans (325ml) annually.

He said the Sabah Government is saddened with the tragic incident, which has left 29 people dead so far while scores other still in critical condition in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Perak.

“The State government views the matter seriously, therefore, immediate and drastic action must be taken against manufacturers, importers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers found to be dealing in these illicit and unregulated products,” he said.

“We have the Ministry of Health, the Royal Malaysian Customs, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumers Affairs, the local authorities and police to start immediate enforcement to ensure stern actions are taken against the traders,” he said.

Speaking in a press conference at Wisma Tun Fuad Stephens here today, Stephen said that measures to curb illicit alcohol products not only due to posing health risks but also cost the government an estimated RM1.2 billion annually in tax revenue.

He cautioned that smugglers have taken advantage of the surge in demand for alcoholic beverages to flood the market with illicit products.

“The information found on the illicit products are normally dubious.  Consumers will also not be able to verify the names of the manufacturers stated on the products and there are no names of importers or distributors as required by our regulations.

“Most of these products are sold at very cheap prices that is between RM2 to RM3 per can clearly showing duties and taxes are not paid,” he said.

Stephen warned traders in the state not to take the law lightly because the penalty is quite heavy to those found guilty.

For instance, he said a company found guilty under the Trade Descriptions Act 2011 could be fined RM15,000 per can and RM10,000 per can or three years’ jail or both for individuals.

He said traders dealing in these illicit alcoholic beverages essentially violated provisions under the Trade Descriptions Act 2011, Excise Act 1967, Customs Act 1967, the Food Act 1983 and Labelling Regulations.

To a question, Stephen said that whether the traders sold counterfeit alcoholic drinks or duty unpaid drinks there are existing laws to charge them with.

He also urged the public to assist should they have any information about illicit alcohol products by contacting the Customs Department at [email protected] or toll free line 1800-800-8855.-SabahNewsToday


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