The meat cartel in Johor, accused of distributing non-halal meat, was using a fruit importing company to bring the uncertified meat products into the country, according to a Sinar Harian report.
The Malay-language daily said several proxy companies had misused Bumiputera owned companies to deceive authorities.
“The meat cartel created proxy companies to convince supermarkets and hypermarkets that the frozen meat they supply was halal,” said sources close to the investigation.
The permits issued were for importing fruit, but instead it was used for meat, the report said.
Last week, the New Straits Times reported that the Johor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has opened investigations into meat smuggling.
The focus of the probe is on the falsification of the Customs 1 form, which is the declaration of import items; and graft among the agencies involved.
On December 1, in a joint operation, authorities went after a “meat cartel” that smuggled uncertified frozen meat from Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine and China.
A total of 1,500 tonnes of frozen meat with an estimated value of RM30 million was seized during a raid on a warehouse in Senai Industrial Park, Johor.
The products were said to have been smuggled through Johor’s main seaports, while the warehouse was believed to be where the smugglers generated fake labels and stamps which would then be used on the repackaged meat and sold nationwide.
Authorities said the cartel had been active for years and to avoid detection, they allegedly falsified import documents, permits and halal certificates besides also importing products from legitimate sources and mixing it with their stock.
Sources then said the cartel used a codename as a password for civil servants who were on the cartel’s payroll.
“The code used was ‘red carpet meat’ referring to the meat that was purposely let into the country. It is understood that this is not a new issue, it has been a long time and the officers or members in charge of the cartel will get multiplied wages, especially those working in the country’s major ports.
“The cartel is well-versed in port operations, including the task of assigning enforcement personnel to pass inspection controls assisted by ‘insiders’,” sources said.
Sinar Harian also discovered that the cartel had carefully arranged the plan by ensuring that the container carrying the smuggled goods to go through the VIP route to pass the inspection and then cash payments will be made to the staff.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary said he had received information that several companies had been involved in the fake halal meat certification scandal for quite some time.
He said as such there was no issue of enforcement officers from the Department of Islamic Development’s (Jakim) being involved in the scandal nor were they complacent in carrying out their responsibilities.
“I would like to stress here that the meat cartel was not due to the carelessness of Jakim’s enforcement officers and supervisors, as all of them had complied to the standard operating procedures (SOP).
“This kind of fraudulent act happens almost everywhere. Jakim has a good SOP in issuing halal certification to meat companies. What transpired is that other companies copied the genuine halal logo issued by Jakim to legitimate meat companies, for their own fake transactions.
“These fake companies will use the halal certification for their imported meat. The meat belonging to these fake companies are the ones which had caused doubt of their halal status,” he said.
Marzuk who is also Pengkalan Chepa MP told this to reporters after presenting school equipment to some 600 schoolchildren in his constituency today.
He also believes that the fake companies had taken advantage of the good business transaction between Jakim and genuine meat companies for their own use.
To curb this, he said Jakim had been told to tighten its enforcement and SOP in the issuance of halal certification for all imported products, including meat.
“The government is also planning to increase Jakim’s manpower soon and the priority locations would be at industrial areas in the Klang Valley and Johor,” he said.
Marzuk advised members of the public not to panic over the issue as the Government was conducting a thorough probe into the scandal.
He added that the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry would also come out with an announcement over the matter soon.