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Malaysian company caught smuggling sand into Singapore

By Kumaran Pillai

In a recent article published in The Star in Malaysia, a local Malaysian company was allegedly smuggling sand into Singapore from the state of Pahang (here).

The company was contracted by the Tanjung  Agas Gas and Oil Logistic Park in Pahang to carry out land reclamation works in Sungei Pahang (Pahang river).

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is currently investigating several Pekan district land officers in relation to this alleged sand smuggling. There may be several high ranking officials involved in this matter.

A senior officer stated that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission is also investigating the land office in charge of the area.

“We have opened a file on the case and our investigation will include looking at the possible transactions between some people at the land office and the contractor,” he added.

Sand was illegally ferried in small tug boats into the open sea before being shipped to Singapore.

Land Reclamation Sites in Singapore

There are several land reclamation sites in Singapore and the Singapore government has plans to increase the land mass by another 50sq km within the next 25 years in line with the anticipated population growth.

The seas around Pulau Ubin, Palau Tekong and Serangoon Island will be reclaimed to create a land mass to cater for new housing projects. However, with sand in limited supply and from dubious sources, the viability of these projects is uncertain.

In a recent report from the National Population and Talent Division, it projected that new citizenships need to be given out at 1.4 times faster than the current rate in order to maintain "population stability" (here). 

Currently, there are land reclamation, burial site exhumation and other land reuse programmes in place to cope with Singapore’s rising population and the demand for land and housing. However, incidents such as these may put more pressure on the rising costs of land as the government will fall behind in terms of releasing new plots of land for residential and commercial purposes in the future.

Malaysia & Indonesia have banned the supply of Sand

In an article by the Telegraph in 2010, the banning of sand exporting introduced in Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam “have cut off supplies and opened up a thriving smuggling trade.”

Sand smuggling has also become a major concern for environmental groups as over 80 islands in Indonesia are at the risk of being inundated by the rising sea levels.

This is not the first time Malaysian civil servants have run afoul of the law. In Jan 2010, 34 Malaysian civil servants were arrested for accepting bribes and sexual favours to facilitate sand smuggling to Singapore.

Photo: Dredging Today