Mersing district police office in Johor, Malaysia. Photo: Google Maps

Malaysian police have busted a smuggling syndicate based in Johor, arresting 23 people on Wednesday and seizing untaxed cigarettes and luxury vehicles worth around nine million ringgit (US$2.16 million).

This was the biggest contraband seizure in Malaysia this year, with seven local men, including the ringleader, and 16 Indonesians – aged from 24 to 46, arrested, according to the Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order Department, China Press reported.

Some 1,332 boxes of smuggled cigarettes of various brands worth an estimated six million ringgit were recovered.

Five lorries and 19 luxury sedans worth around three million ringgit, including eight Toyota Vellfires, two Toyota Estimas, a Toyota Camry, a Nissan Sentra, a Honda Jazz, a Hyundai Sonata, a Mitsubishi Triton and a Proton Prevé were also seized during the raids on a factory in Felda Tenggaroh 2, Mersing, a house in Taman Johor Jaya, Johor Bahru, and a factory in Nusajaya, Iskandar Puteri.

Preliminary inquiries found that the syndicate had been active for almost a year, supplying contraband cigarettes to small retailers in Johor and along the east coast while luxury cars were used as a way to avoid suspicion by local authorities.