A total of eight Vietnamese fishermen aged between 25 and 35 were arrested in waters off Pahang, Malaysia, on Friday afternoon for allegedly smuggling over 300,000 ringgit (US$72,000) worth of goods out of Malaysia.

The interception and arrests took place after officers from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) took note of suspicious fishing vessels which were later found to bear fake boat registration numbers. The vessels were anchored approximately 20 nautical miles from Tanjung Gemuk Village, Rompin District, the Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia) reported.

One boat was seen to be surrounded by several others, suggesting that illegal smuggling activities might be taking place.

Upon interception of the fishing boat, officers seized 46 cartons of liquor of unrecognized brands, 10 barrels of live and frozen water snakes and one metric ton of grade A squid.

Preliminary investigation found that the suspects, none of whom had valid travel documents, were attempting to smuggle the items, which had an estimated value of more than 300,000 ringgit (US$72,000), out of Malaysia for the Vietnamese market.

The case is now being investigated under the Fisheries Act 1985 for violating the licencing terms of carrying cargo items, the Immigration Act 1959/63 as the fishermen held no valid identification documents, and the Customs Act 1967 and the Wildlife Conservation Act on suspicion of smuggling liquor and exotic animals.