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Article 1

Another take on border smuggling

Lim Teck Ghee
| January 15, 2012

Recently the New Straits Times ran a front-page article on brazen smuggling at our borders
with Thailand and Indonesia.
In its report, an NST team which joined several Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission
(MACC) covert surveillance operations found that agencies tasked with foiling smuggling
attempts were closing an eye to the movement of price-controlled goods by foreigners and
According to the papers report, this is costing the government hundreds of millions of
ringgit annually. Goods smuggled ranged from diesel, petrol, liquefied petroleum gas to
sugar, cooking oil and flour.
The expos was followed by another front-page article the next day with the screaming
headline For RM10, smugglers can breeze in and out (Jan 3, 2012) and the sub-headline
Corruption is rampant among law enforcers at border checkpoints.
There has been no response yet from the higher authorities to these sensational reports.
But if the NST editors are expecting Malaysians to pat them on the back for being a
crusading paper, they are hopelessly wrong.
Let me provide another point of view.
What is NSTs real agenda?
Highly placed officials and politicians have confided to me that the NST is getting out of
control by running these articles which are calculated to bring the government agencies and
top brass into disrepute.
Their job should be to focus on bringing down Anwar Ibrahim and the Pakatan Rakyat
opposition parties, not to invite attention to minor and trivial issues.
I fully agree. In addition, I have to point out that what the NST has described as smuggling
is technically correct but a view taken from a biased perspective. A more holistic political
economy approach is needed to explain the activity before jumping to rash conclusions.

What we are seeing at the border can be characterised as an adaptation of the long
established and traditional people-to-people economic exchange, without the repressive
hand of the state to extract duties and taxes.
According to the American social scientist, James Scott whose acclaimed book,
Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, incidentally, was based
on work in the Muda area of Kedah the Brechtian or Schweikian forms of resistance
are an integral part of the small arsenal of relatively powerless groups.
The said forms of resistance include such acts as foot-dragging, dissimulations, false
compliance, feigned ignorance, desertion, pilfering, smuggling, poaching and so on.
These techniques, for the most part quite prosaic, are the ordinary means of class struggle.
They are the techniques of first resort in those common historical circumstances in which
open defiance is impossible or entails mortal danger.
These so-called smugglers are in fact taking a big risk of breaking the law to facilitate the
exchange. Rather than being condemned, they should be congratulated for helping lower
the cost of living for those residing at the border.
As to the damage to the Malaysian economy, lets have a more enlightened view.
Many of the beneficiaries are our Muslim brothers and sisters living on the other side of
colonial borders arbitrarily imposed on us. If the British, French and Dutch had not
concocted their nefarious slicing up of the region, we may be living with those now on the
other side of the border as one big happy family.
Now that colonialism has come and gone, if we can help our Thai and Indonesian kin have
access to cheaper goods, why not? Can we not close one eye, especially as these are
poorer folk than us? Why begrudge our Narathiwat and Pattani or north Kalimantan
relations especially when they are already feeling the oppression of their own central

If we close both eyes to this activity, Malaysians will not only be seen as charitable
neighbours but we can also proudly claim to be doing more than our fair share for the
common Asean good.
Beating up customs officers

The NST articles also went to great lengths to beat up our Jabatan Kastam Diraja officers.
Come on. This is not only unpatriotic but also unfair. These customs officers receive only a
few ringgit of duit kopi for standing in the sun the whole day to help facilitate this exchange.
Lets also not forget that these same officers also facilitate the cheap influx of fragrant beras
Siam, fruits and other Thai commodities into our country without having the taxman extract
his pound of flesh, and having the Defence Ministry appropriate the revenue to buy
Scorpene submarines.
Without them, we will not be enjoying our nasi lemak special at bargain prices. So lets
appreciate these men in brown who have to put in long hours at isolated and faraway
border outposts protecting our national security. Lets not carp about the couple of hundred
ringgit extra taken home that comes with their job.

Yet another perspective

According to one friend, I and my highly placed Barisan Nasional and civil servant
colleagues have missed the entire point of the NST exercise. This is because the two
articles are a smokescreen to distract readers attention away from the large-scale bribery
and looting of the countrys resources that is taking place.
According to him, enormous sums of money amounting to millions and billions of ringgit
not the paltry sums mentioned in the NST article exchange hands. These vast sums are
not slipped furtively hidden between customs papers in the scorching heat at god-forsaken
spots but openly in cool air-conditioned coffee houses and hotels in Kuala Lumpur or
outside the country at some luxurious resort.
Mainstream media have never highlighted these scandals and never will. But they are
making up for this failure to live up to Clark Kent investigative journalism by going after the
ikan bilis and making readers think that the NST is really a peoples paper.
The friend who believes I missed the point of NSTs exercise made the final deflating
rejoinder that my academic background has led me to over-intellectualise the smuggling
activity and to overlook the most important reason for the two articles. On further thought,
he may be right.
Lim Teck Ghee is the director of Centre for Policy Initiatives.

Article 2

ALOR STAR, Dec 17 Smuggling activities at the Malaysia-Thailand border, especially at Bukit
Kayu Hitam and Kota Putera in Durian Burung is now dominated by syndicates based in the Klang
Valley, according to the Kedah Anti-Smuggling Unit.
Its Commander Abdul Latif Abdul Rahman said the syndicate members were willing to travel nearly
1,000km to bring contraband goods like rice and petrol from the border to the Klang Valley.
The profit factor which has doubled appeals to syndicate members enabling them to risk difficulties
and dangers in the face of the long journey.
The syndicates masterminds spend a lot, for instance in smuggling rice, after which they will find
lorries to carry these goods. The lorries are usually not from Kedah and if they are they will give
deceptive addresses, he told Bernama in a special interview today.

According to Abdul Latif, the syndicates dare to use 40-foot containers and trailers to go through the
Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) Complex and falsely declare the types of goods they
were carrying.
The latest arrests at the Malaysia-Thailand border in Kota Putra involves three trailers, whereas in
Bukit Kayu Hitam a container was involved with rice concealed beneath wooden planks, said Abdul
For the smuggling of fuel, he said the modus operandi of smugglers was to use tanker lorries without
company logos.
The demand for and prices of daun ketum is also high in Thailand, where it can be sold for RM100
per kg compared with RM50 per kg in Malaysia, thus contributing to smuggling.
Even when the ICQ closes at midnight, officials are still on duty to ensure no smuggling goes on,
especially in the hotspot Duty Free Complex (KBC).
The oil palm plantation area behind the Duty Free Complex is often a hotbed of smuggling of goods
such as ganja (cannabis) and rice usually involving Malaysians.
This year, 124 cases were recorded, involving seizure and taxes worth RM3.2 million, compared with
137 cases involving seizures worth RM3.4 million last year.
From the total, the seizure of vehicles recorded the highest amount of RM2.6 million, followed by rice
(RM255,000), diesel/petrol (RM92,178), liquor/tobacco (RM38,425), drug/ketum (RM47,130) and
others. Bernama

Article 3

Malaysian woman nabbed in Vietnam for

smuggling cocaine
Published: 4 November 2015 7:24 PM

Vietnam has arrested a Malaysian woman for smuggling cocaine, state media said today, a crime
punishable by death in the communist country. Gurcharan Kaur, 44, was caught with 5kg of cocaine at Ho
Chi Minh City's international airport on Tuesday night, according to Tuoi Tre newspaper. She had travelled
to Columbia, Panama, Brazil and Dubai before landing in Vietnam where authorities detected the
powdered drug in her baggage, it reported.
Under some of the world's toughest drug laws, anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600g of
heroin or cocaine can face the death penalty in Vietnam. Dozens of foreigners have been sentenced to
death for drug offences but it has been decades since a foreign national was executed in the country and
drug-smuggling and use is commonplace. In September, an Australian woman of Vietnamese origin was
imprisoned for 20 years for trying to smuggle heroin in her underwear. Last year, a Filipino man and
woman were sentenced to death for smuggling in 5kg of cocaine. AFP, November 4, 2015.

Article 4

Increase in firearms smuggling along

Malaysia-Thailand border due to weak
enforcement efforts - Bernama
Published: 5 November 2013 10:34 PM

The rapid economic growth and the frequent movement of people at

the Malaysia-Thailand border have contributed to the increase of
smuggling activities, especially of firearms.
The smuggling of firearms is even reported to have been rampant at the border
area, and fast becoming the hot topic of discussions, especially with the rise in
murder and attempted murder cases involving firearms.
The 640km Malaysia-Thailand border area, which comprises 551km of land
border and the remaining being maritime border, has been the centre of
smuggling activities operated by triads and syndicates in both countries.

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department deputy director

(Intelligence/Operations) Datuk Mazlan Mansor said several
weaknesss in the border enforcement and inspections had been
identified as the factors for the increase in the smuggling activities.
He said police intelligence also found that inspections at the Malaysia-Thailand
border area were done at random, hence allowing criminals to smuggle firearms
quite easily.
However, Mazlan said the security forces should not be blamed as they were
forced to resort to doing random inspections by the rapid economic growth at the
border area.
"There was a time when a security team, comprising police and Customs
personnel, carried out detailed inspections on buses and lorries, and it had
caused kilometres of traffic jams.
"As a result, local residents and business communities had also lodged reports
and complaints against us," he told Bernama recently.
Mazlan said the existence of rat routes near the border in Sungai Golok had also
helped increase smuggling activities.
"The Golok river is not that big. Outside the monsoon season, some people can
cross the river easily without using a boat. This is one of the factors that has
increased smuggling activities in the country," he said.
In a bid to overcome the problem, Mazlan said the government must take
concrete action to empower border enforcement, besides tightening several
existing regulations and laws.
He said the police had also formulated new strategies, including to strengthen its
intelligence operations at the border, as well as to increase cooperation with the
Armed Forces, Customs Department and the Anti-Smuggling Unit.
He also lauded the implementation of the crime prevention operation, dubbed
Ops Cantas, as it has deterred violent criminals from being too active.

A total of 573 smuggled firearms have also been seized during the operation so
far, including 212 semi-automatic pistols, 134 home-made pistols, 80 revolvers,
15 hand grenades, 14 pump guns and 71 air pistols, he said.
While proposing that all law enforcement agencies working along the border
reinforce each other's strengths, Mazlan said they also need to exchange
information with the Thai authorities.
"I think the relevant authorities can also launch a psychological war to educate
the public, especially in the border area, not to deal with the smugglers," he
added. - Bernama, November 5, 2013.

Article 5
Malaysia finds mass graves of 24 suspected human trafficking victims

The remains of two dozen people have been found near the border with
Thailand, police said
Malaysian authorities have found mass graves containing the remains of more
than 20 people believed to be human trafficking victims near the border
with Thailand, police said on Sunday.
The heavily forested Thai-Malay border has been a transit point for smugglers
bringing people to south-east Asia by boat from Burma and Bangladesh.
The migrants are often held for ransom in squalid detention camps and
according to some accounts face torture and starvation.
Police uncovered 24 bodies on Saturday in the Bukit Wang Burma area near
the Malaysian border with Thailand, close to where authorities in May had
found hundreds of bodies in illegal detention camps.
Following on from the operation in which we found ... bodies of illegal
immigrants, 24 more bodies have been found and dug up, police said in a
statement, adding that the remains had been handed over to medical experts.

It was not immediately clear if the bodies discovered were those of Rohingya, a
minority ethnic group in Myanmar, whose members have fled widespread
persecution in that country.
A crackdown by Thai authorities in May drove traffickers to abandon
thousands of migrants on rickety, overcrowded boats in south-east Asian
waters, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis that saw them land
in Malaysia and Indonesia after being rescued by fishermen.

Article 6
Drug Smuggling in Malaysia- Our Recent Case Files
Suhana Ismail* and Norhaya Jaafar
Narcotics section, Department of Chemistry Malaysia, 46661 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
ABSTRACT: The activities of illicit drug trafficking and smuggling have certainly posed huge
challenges to enforcement authorities and forensic laboratories especially when these involve
transnational syndicates. Malaysia, with its location as the transit hub of this region, have
continuously to become the hot spot of illicit drug smuggling through its offences carries death
penalty in this country. This paper describes the general trends of drug smuggling which include
methods of drugs concealment, body packing, cross border smuggling using vehicles or via
shipment. We also reported two cases of drug smuggling involving the forensic scientists from
the Department of Chemistry Malaysia, which each case posed different challenges to the
investigating scientist. We concluded that cross border and departmental collaboration as well as
public information are vital for successful investigation.
Keywords: illicit drug, smuggling, trafficking, drugs concealment, body packing, cross border.

Over the last decade, drugs remain the global threat to health and development of whole nation.
According to the United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the estimated number of
illicit drug users has achieved 300 million people at about 5.0% among the world population in
2013 [1]. Although the prevalence of drugs users is said to remain stable for recent years, this is
not something exciting as the number of drug users is increasing continuously as a reflection to
the increase of world population [1]. The war against illegal drugs has been declared at global
level, but the outcome was seen to be rather disappointing. The increased demand of illegal
narcotic drugs has triggered the drug trafficking and smuggling businesses [2] to meet
continuous demand as evident by frequent news reported on drug trafficking and smuggling
activities. At one end, it indicates the successfully execution of these criminal acts, but it is

unknown on the number of those getting through the security system, which is expected to be
In Malaysia, drugs have been long abused even prior to the independence of the country. The
problems created by these illegal drugs are not new issues, and have been well acknowledged by
the nation leader who also declared drugs as the number one enemy of Malaysia decade ago [3].
Heroin, morphine and cannabis were the dominant drugs reported, but there is a trend of shifting
these conventional substances to synthetic drugs (i.e. amphetamine-type stimulants and new
psychoactive drugs [1,4]. The demands for drugs in the domestic market, and in some instances
for regional supply, have led to the emergence of clandestine drugs laboratories as well as
intensified smuggling activities to include the drugs and their precursors and essential chemicals
used in drugs manufacturing [4].
From cultivation of traditional herbs or synthesis of synthetic drugs to the consuming of these
drug substances, every act involving drugs is always dangerous and complex. Within these, drug
trafficking can be one of the most risky stages, involving the involuntary conveyance of drugs
for profit or illegal purchase of drugs for peddling [5]. In order to make this happen, the illegal
drugs have to be smuggled by the means of carrying, mailing, making use of human or animals
to carry, or by other means of transporting to convey them from one place to another [5]. These
criminal activities are no longer a drug problem but a serious security threat [1]. Nowadays, the
crisis of drug trafficking and smuggling is gaining attention and alarming in most of the regions
of the world, including Malaysia which is situated at the centre of South East
Asia serving it as an ideal choice as the logistical transit point for drug traffickers and
smugglers, not only as a transit route for illicit drugs, but also a final destination. In this paper,
the trends of drug trafficking and smuggling activities were reviewed. Two cases involving
cocaine smuggling in cans and food items were reported.
General Trends of Drug Smuggling
The activities of illicit drug smuggling and law enforcement have made the race between drug
traffickers and enforcement authorities to continue and become more challenging, often
transnational in nature. A lot of efforts from both parties have been reported, with more
creative ways of smuggling drugs passed through the watchful eyes in one side and more
sophisticated equipments and detection policies at another side, with no sign of ending as long as
there is a demand for drugs.
Drug smuggling is risky and can be sentenced to death when caught in some countries, including
Malaysia. But still, the fact of the matter is, this crime is a big money business when succeed,
and this is deemed worth risking to some for its money [5]. The methods of smuggling drugs to
escape the supervision and detection of the authorities vary but generally could be divided into
two categories, namely personal and impersonal. In former method, the smugglers will
personally transport the illegal drugs across the border or the detection system, in or on their
body as well as with the aid of equipments. In the latter, the drug traffickers or couriers are not
directly involved in transporting the drugs across the border they intended.

Methods of Drug Concealment

Due to increase in the cases of drug smuggling worldwide, tight security at the regional and
international borders have forced the drug smuggling syndicates to use new methods to conceal
these drugs to bypass security check including body packing detection [2,6]. The type of drugs
intended to be smuggled are usually different in their packaging and size [7]. Condoms, latex,
cellophane or other synthetic materials are frequently reported for drug packing [2,6,8]. In
general, the packed drugs are usually in spherical or oval shapes, but can also be varied
depending on the method of production and the route of administration into the body [2,6].
Mechanically produced drug packets are very uniform in shape compared to those manually
wrapped. Furthermore, orally ingested packets are usually spherical and smaller in size (less than
2 cm) whereas those genitally inserted packets are generally oval in shape with larger size (4-6
cm in length and 2-3 cm in width) [2,6]. In many instances, the packet design has been found to
correlate with the country of origin [9].
Body packing
Body packers are different from body stuffers who swallow the drug packages in an unplanned
attempt to conceal an item especially during police check or arrest [10]. Besides young males,
children, pregnant women and even dogs were used [5,8-9,11-12]. They are said to be easier to
pass through the detection system and those authority personnel always give less attention to
these groups of people, therefore are frequently exploited as drug mules. A number of cases were
detected among women who attempted to smuggle the illicit drugs taped under their breasts.
More recently, breast implant has becoming a new trend of woman drug smugglers. By
comparison, the smugglers who ingest the drugs through the throat and also insert these
substances into their bowels are exposed to greater safety risks if exploded, to those who
smuggle the drugs outside their bodies. In most circumstances, education levels of body packers
are generally low usually as farmers or are jobless, regardless of how they smuggled the drugs.
These are cheap labours available for hire, in addition to their desire for money and relatively
lower chance of being detected making them the best vehicle to smuggle and transport drugs
In most of the cases involving body packers, the traffickers have to take good care in the
packaging the drug to ensure a safe transit through the gastrointestinal system without leakage or
rupture [10]. The secured packaging of the drug substances is of most importance for traffickers
as pose health risk and security alert at the checkpoints [11,13]. Drugs such as diphenoxylate or
atropin may be taken by body packers to reduce the bowel motility and lessen the likelihood of
premature passage of drug packets. Once successfully evading the detection systems, laxative is
frequently used to speed the retrieval of the drug packets [8,11]. At Department of Chemistry, we
have reported an interesting case the Black Pearl in 2010 [14].
Common Drug Smuggling Methods

Besides utilising personal drug body packers as the vehicle to smuggle the drug substances,
drugs can be smuggled in many other ways, commonly in double layers of suitcases and bags, in
food products such as fruits and candy, various household items and containers, hidden inside the
airplane itself and other more creative ways. Some of the smuggling ways never come across in
the mind of the authorities but were implemented by the crime syndicates. Wrapped boxes are
always detected in airports and ports, and almost every passenger has these boxes with them
while travelling. Some of these boxes are even gift wrapped and disguised as gifts. In certain
instances, the illegal substances were kept inside a doll to sneak past the authorities, and most
cases involved children. Dirty tricks and conceivable means were used including exploitation of
the elders and children.
The most efficient way to move the drugs around is by a personnel automobile [15], particularly
those accessible across the border, such as between Malaysia and Thailand. Personnel
automotive grants more privacy rights and also as the only inconspicuous way to transport drugs
to their destinations [15]. Hidden compartments exist in a car serve as the concealed space even
the car was stopped during the traffic stops for a visible search [15]. The border check points
always face with overload numbers of vehicles going in and out of a region, especially at peak
hours. The security check on every vehicle and every compartment of each car becomes
impossible and these are the opportunities for trafficking.
Cross Border Shipment Attempt
Drugs are often transported into the targeted area or country through shipment hidden in food
cans, exported coffee bags, or even food such as pickles and fruits. Frozen foods like fish or
shrimp were also used as the medium to conceal drugs. Dissolved drugs into liquid forms to
disguise as bottled alcohol or drinks are an upcoming trend. Tapioca, book binding, artwork,
cloth and shoes have been made empty to contain drugs. Though most of the smuggling cases
appear simple and old-fashion, the authorities have to be alert at all time as more creative ways
are being attempted such as using the container of toothpaste recently came across. In many
instances, the chieftain was hardly detected due to indirect involvement of many people and
stages in smuggling. Very often, the drug products were seized by the authorities but the
responsible people for the crime often escape except the packers. Recently, the syndicates have
switched the modus operandi of importing the drug substances into the nation in the form of
parcel via air cargo [16] which appears to be safe for the criminals. These are extremely hard to
trace the crime because of false information on the parcel. Security scanning of such parcel is
also difficult to identify its content through scanning, unless through opening.
From Our Recent Case Files
Liquid cocaine in cans
In November 2012, following the information received from oversea drug enforcement
counterparts, a ship from South America en route to Mozambique which made a stop at Port
Klang in Malaysia was raided to have loaded with drug shipment. Police and Custom officers
discovered nearly 1000 boxes of canned processed coconut milk and pineapples. Inspection by
the police of over 100 cans using portable drug testing kit has finally found a tin to have tested
positive for controlled drug substances before the forensic scientists from the Department of

Chemistry Malaysia was called upon to examine seizure containing some 23000 cans. The
authors were astonished by the syndicates capability to have the sophisticated technique of
embedding the liquidised cocaine and the facilities to pack the drugs into cans at an industry
scale. The tens of thousands of physically identical cans posed a great challenge to us at the
scene which took us a lot of time efforts to open and inspect all the cans that weighed about 400
g in which those tested positive to have contained about half of its weight with liquidised
Drugs in mixed-pickles
In July 2013, the forensic scientists from the Department of Chemistry Malaysia was called upon
to examine seizure of mixed pickles contained in about 40 boxes seized in a factory storing food
items such as vermicelli, tomato sauce, salt and imported fruit pickles in Nilai Industrial Parks
Selangor following information from the public on suspicious operation in the premise. Packets
of suspected controlled substances were hidden among packets of pickles which were believed to
have supplied from the neighbouring country. Our examination revealed that 195 packets of them
contain about 500 g of high grade heroine in each one, leading to a total of 100 kg heroine being
In Malaysia, cases of drug smuggling were reported but the techniques used were generally
considered conservative as compared to those innovative and creative ways reported in other
countries, particularly in American and European countries. We discussed the general methods of
drug smuggling and reported two interesting cases involving drug smuggling masked under food
items that demonstrated the need for cross border and departmental collaboration of various
parties for a successful operation. Increased effort has to be established by the authorities to
detect, intercept and disrupt the narcotics smuggling. The drug traffickers will certainly continue
to search for effective ways of transporting and delivering their products. Hence, it is extremely
important for local, state and federal government to work together to improve the situation along
the border, and all the entry points to Malaysia.
The authors thank Dr. Ahmad Fahmi Lim Abdullah for the useful advice during the writing of
this manuscript.
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Challenges for Asia and the Pacific. Global SMART programme. United Nation of Drugs and
Crime, Vienna: United Nations Publication.
2. Ab Hamid S., Abd Rashid SN., Mohd Saini S. (2012). Characteristic imaging features of body
packers: a pictorial essay. Japanese Journal of Radiology 30: 386-392.
3. Haq, S. M. (1990). Three decades of drug abuse on the Malaysian scene. Selangor: Penerbit
Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

4. Hamdan, R. (2013). Chemical profiling of methamphetamine seized in Malaysia. Master

Thesis: Universiti Sains Malaysia.
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preliminary report. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology
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should know about it. European Radiology 14(4):736-742.
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stuffers: an observational case series. Toxicology 55(2): 190-197.
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drugs. The New England Journal of Medicine349(26):2519-2526.
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management of body packers (drug mules). Emergency Medicine Journal 28: 98-101.
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11. Goertemoeller S., Behrman A. (2006). The risky business of body packers and body stuffers.
Journal of Emergency Nursing. 32(6): 541-544.
12. Fox News (2014). Mexican man accused of using dogs to smuggle drugs in Peru.
Accessed on Dec7, 2014 at:
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from body stuffers. Forensic Science International 140:109-111.
14. Chan, K.B., Sulaiman, M., Ismail, S., Kaprawi, M.M. (2010). More from our recent case file.
Malaysian Journal of Forensic Sciences 1(1): 6-11.
15. National Geographic Channel. 2014. Move that dope: How drug smugglers use hidden car
traps. Accessed on Oct 1, 2014 at:
16. The Star (2014). Cops seize RM 5.5 mil worth of drugs in six courier parcel. Assessed on
Dec 6, 2014 at: