KOTA KINABALU: Six suspected sand thieves were nabbed in Beaufort late last month in one of the state’s biggest bust against environmental thieves.
Several hundred thousands of ringgit worth of machinery including lorries and excavators were also seized from the culprits who are working for two companies.
State Land and Survey Department director Datuk Osman Jamal told a press conference yesterday that the bust came about following tip offs from villagers in Kg Melulugus, Beaufort where the thefts occurred.
“In our operation from 11am to 11.45am on Nov 28, we nabbed six people,” he said adding that among the machinery confiscated were three sand excavators, three lorries and two sand pumps.
They are being investigated under Section 168 of the Sabah Land Ordinance and face a fine of up to RM100,000 or a jail term of up to five years or both, on conviction.
Osman said the six men were released on police bail the next day.
“The success shows that the government through the department is addressing the problem of sand theft seriously,” he said adding that it was the biggest bust since the law was amended in 2005.
According to him, the operation was jointly conducted with the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) after public complaints that sand theft was occurring in Padas River.
He added that the two companies are addressed in another district.
On sand theft complaints, he said the department received 36 complaints this year and 42 last year.
Osman said not all complaints were valid as some of the sand and pebbles dredgers are bona fide operators.
“When we checked out the complaints, we found that only between 20 and 30 per cent of the complaints are genuine where the operators are illegal.
“However, when complainants decide to bring the matter to the newspaper, the illegal operate will escape,” he said of the need for the department to have public cooperation.
Since 2005, Osman said the department has nabbed 79 people and seized 70 machinery including excavators, barge and scow. The compound fines received was RM2.3 million.
“The amount of fines we received thus far is believed to be the biggest compared to other states,” he said in elaborating the department’s success against sand theft in Sabah.
On reports that an illegal sand dredging was taking place in Keningau, Osman said the operator has the licence to do so.
“We have five operators in Keningau,” he said adding that the news report had touched on the operations of one of them.
He added that all operators must abide by the conditions attached to the licence including not harming and polluting the environment.
However, only the environmental authorities and the Department of Irrigation and Drainage could act on the matter, he said.
Osman disclosed that the department only approved 85 operators from the 347 applicants statewide.
Source: New Sabah Times