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Friday, 19 May 2017

Gambling dens masquerading as cybercafes

The recent case in Puchong may be only the tip of the iceberg, with many illegal outlets operating within the Klang Valley.

IT’S no big secret. Illegal gambling dens are thriving in the Klang Valley.

From time to time, the local councils and district police have conducted raids, but the mushrooming of these vice dens has led many to accuse the authorities of turning a blind eye to such activities.

Hardcore gamblers know where to go to get their gambling fix, but the public in general are only starting to realise the severity of the situation because of a viral video and several high-profile arrests of cops over the last few days.

The viral video shows two men entering a so-called cybercafe in Bandara Kinrara, Puchong. They rob the outlet and then take turns to rape the cashier in a hidden corner of the outlet.

While police have acted swiftly – one suspect identified from the video is now in custody – it has now transpired that the cybercafe was actually an illegal gambling den.

In fact, this is now the modus operandi of these gambling outlets. You will see a lot of desktop computers when you enter the premises, but the jackpot machines are hidden at the back.

The robbery of the cybercafe itself would have been chalked off as another crime statistic in the police district of Serdang, but the sexual assault of the unfortunate cashier and the subsequent furore on social media have thrust the case into public consciousness.

The truth is, these illegal gambling outlets have long been protected and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) current crackdown on rogue cops serves only to highlight this fact.

The Star reported yesterday that two OCPDs from Melaka – one an assistant commissioner and the other a deputy superintendent – were arrested by anti-graft officers for links to organised crime syndicates.

These two high-profile arrests come hot on the heels of a swoop on four other senior officers in an operation codenamed Ops Gopi. All six of these cops are believed to be in cahoots with illegal gambling and vice operators in Melaka.

So far, anti-graft officers have seized RM186,000 in cash and have frozen the bank accounts of all suspects, totalling more than RM459,000. MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said his officers were in the midst of tracing the links.

“Give us some time to unearth the inner networking. There may be more arrests depending on the course of our investigations,” he said.

What is even more alarming is information that officers in Bukit Aman could also be implicated in this protection racket. Sources say these officers had knowledge of illegal gambling and vice activities and were actively involved in collecting money from them.

The MACC should be commended for their crackdown on rogue cops, but they should also be training their guns on the Klang Valley. As I mentioned earlier, illegal gambling dens are operating with impunity in Selangor. These outlets can be found in Rawang, Klang, Selayang, Shah Alam, Sepang and even Petaling Jaya.

A few days ago, eight policemen were taken into custody in separate raids in the Klang Valley by Bukit Aman’s Integrity and Standard Compliance Department. But this investigation seems to be focused on drug dealers and their links to crooked cops, the result of which has been a major shake-up in the federal police’s Narcotics Department.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar has said that he will not condone or protect those involved in illegal activities. “Stern action will be meted out against any personnel, regardless of rank,” he warned.

Once again, kudos to the cops for trying to get rid of this cancer which has infected the force, but the recent rob-and-rape case at the illegal gambling outlet took place just 1km away from the district police headquarters in Serdang.

Three years ago, StarMetro highlighted the fact that there were up to 40 illegal gambling dens in the Sepang district within a 5km radius. After the exposé, the majority of these outlets were shut down, but recent checks show that a number of them have sprung up again. And almost all them operate behind closed doors.

The outlets could be next to a bank, restaurant, convenience store or even a workshop, but the public remains unaware, thanks to the presence of solid metal shutters and grilles.

However, regular gamblers know that they can get in through a secret door hidden in the stairwell. The door is made of heavily tinted glass with a “no helmet” sticker on it, which serves as a code to identify the outlet.

Another common feature is a switch for a bell on the side of the door. Security is tight as the door and the five-foot way in front of the gambling dens are usually under close surveillance through CCTV.

While fingers are being pointed at police for “overlooking” illegal activities in their midst, questions should also be asked about the roles of the local councils.

The local authorities are quick to take action over unpaid assessment and quit rent, but what about cracking down on illegal gambling outlets that do not have business licences?

The writer believes that these outlets could have obtained legitimate cybercafe operating licences. The onus is on the local authorities to ensure that these business licences are not being abused.

Tags / Keywords: brian martin , illegal gambling dens

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