21/04/2009 (NST Online), Kota Kinabalu - Palm oil thefts in Sabah have caused losses of up to RM9 million, with syndicates stealing up to 3,000 tonnes of oil last year.
State police chief Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim said 163 cases were reported last year, with the amount of oil stolen ranging from one to 40 tonnes.
Police believe that the thefts are inside jobs masterminded by syndicates and usually take place during delivery journeys from the mills to the port where they are to be shipped, and at filling stations.
"There are cases where oil tankers carrying the oil go missing, only to be discovered the next day, emptied, and the driver nowhere to be found. In some cases, the tanker that arrives does not have the amount of oil that was expected.
"So far, we have arrested 75 people, mostly drivers, security personnel and others," said Noor Rashid.
He said in many cases, the drivers and security personnel often did not have identification papers.
"It is very suspicious. These people are hired by transport companies without proper documents and they disappear after two or three months."
The thefts occur mostly in the east coast towns of Tawau and Lahad Datu, followed by Sandakan and Kunak.
"We are working with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board to get to the bottom of this. Logistics and transport companies should screen their employees when hiring them as the losses are quite siginificant."
Meanwhile, police here have crippled an illegal moneylending firm operating in an apartment in Penampang.
Four men in their 20s -- three from Sarawak and one from Johor -- were arrested in a raid on Sunday.