Johor to start probe into sand smuggling claims

Nelson Benjamn
The Star

The state government will initiate its own probe into allegations that sand is being smuggled out of the country via Sungai Johor.

“We have nothing to hide,” said Local Government, Housing, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Ahmad Zahri Jamil.

The state, he said, had stationed staff from the Johor Baru Land and Mining office (PTG) at all Customs checkpoints since earlier this month, especially in Pasir Gudang, Tanjung Belungkur and Stulang Laut.

He also confirmed that the sand from Sg Johor needed to pass Singapore to reach its destination on the west side of the country if moved via pontoons.

Asked about the possibility that some of the sand could be diverted as the barges cross into Singapore waters, he insisted that all records were in order and the state’s jurisdiction was only within three nautical miles. Anything above that is within federal jurisdiction.

“I do not see how you can smuggle sand into Singapore as they are so strict when it comes to enforcement,” he told a press conference held with officers from various departments, including the PTG, yesterday.

Ahmad Zahri also said that sand mining in Sg Johor was for domestic use only and that it was being carried out by four companies and “an individual” over the past three years.

The companies involved within the Kota Tinggi area were Bidari Kekal Sdn Bhd, SSB Construction Sdn Bhd, AZY Sdn Bhd and Sovereign Earth Sdn Bhd.

He said the individual concession was given to Nor Hisham Mohd Ali under the PTG.

“They have been extracting sand as part of a project to deepen the Kota Tinggi river in 2007,” he said, adding that these companies were given approval to transport sand via lorries or pontoons. (One pontoon is equivalent to 150 lorry loads.)

“The sand is for domestic use. Johor does not export sand. So far, all our records indicate that everything is in order. All the sand from the east coast of the state is supplied to areas within the west coast, especially in Iskandar Malaysia,” he said.

“The Customs Department is tasked with ensuring all the barges that depart their designated areas reach the proper area with the same payload and quantity,” he said.

Asked if those involved in the sand mining operations included politicians or VIPs, Ahmad Zahri said: “That is getting personal. I cannot reveal even if I know.”

On whether Johor planned to stop sand mining at the end of the licensing period at the end of the year, he said the state received revenue from it and there was still demand for sand.

He noted that there was a case in March last year where the Maritime Enforcement Agency detained a barge with six Indonesians for trying to smuggle sand.

Since then, there had been no other cases.

Asked if the PTG had received complaints about sand smuggling, Ahmad Zahri said that all complaints had been investigated and no wrongdoing had been detected.

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