KUALA LUMPUR: He is a supposed titled gentleman - Sir Col Datuk Dr Prince. Chomping on cigars and being chauffeured around in a limousine, he tells his clients, who are mostly businessmen, that he can get them honorary doctorates from an Italian university for at least RM20,000.
Claiming that he is an adopted son of a local royal family, the 36-year-old bogus Datuk is alleged to have arranged for graduation ceremonies by renting conference rooms in hotels and hiring part-time actors to pose as university deans or foreign dignitaries to award the scrolls.
For the past two years, dozens of businessmen and even Datuks, are believed to have parted with huge sums of money for an honorary PhD in social service to the con man who comes under the guise of a prince, a retired colonel, a relative of a Sultan, and even a “Sir”.
Many of his victims were taken up by the con man’s expensive habits as he moved about in a limousine and held meetings in five-star hotels where he would regularly smoke cigars.
However, his shady dealings came to an end when he was arrested while in the midst of trying to con a 41-year-old managing director in a five-star hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang several days ago.
Police recovered large amounts of fake documents purportedly issued by a university in Italy, name cards, letterheads, PhD nomination forms and certificates from the suspect’s car and house.
City deputy CID Chief Asst Comm Syed Ismail Syed Azizan confirmed the arrest and urged those who had been conned by the bogus Datuk to contact the City Commercial Crimes Unit at 03-21460522 or the nearest police station.
An Italian Embassy spokesman said the scrolls were worthless as the university or its dean did not exist. He said the embassy was aware of the con man’s activities since 2000 following queries sought by a local Datuk and a company director over the authenticity of the awards.
Investigations by Italian police showed that there was no such House of Sovereign Crown of Susiana and Prof Ambrosini, Grand Master of the Order and rector of the WUR Diandra University at the address printed on the PhD application forms.
“We sent two letters to Wisma Putra informing them about the con man and requesting them to take immediate steps to check his activities,” the spokesman said.
He said the embassy was concerned over the matter, as such a scam could damage the country’s image.
The spokesman also explained that Italy did not have a King, as it was a republic.
A 41-year-old managing director, who declined to be named, said he recently got a call from a man claiming to be a Datuk who allegedly told him that he was among four people selected to receive an honorary doctorate for social contributions to the community.
“The ‘Datuk’ told me that the king of Italy will be presenting the scrolls during a visit to Malaysia on March 12,” he said, adding that he had agreed to have a meeting with the 'Datuk' at a hotel in Bandar Sunway.
“Initially, I doubted the caller. But I was convinced after the Datuk showed me documents about the university and the award,” he said, adding that the 'Datuk', who knew about the businessman’s contributions especially to charitable organisations, demanded RM20,000 for the scroll.
The businessman, who did not have enough money at that time, agreed to make the payment at a hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang later. “Several days ago while I was with the ‘Datuk’ to pay the money, several plain-clothes policemen walked up to us and arrested him,” he said.
Initial police investigations showed that the suspect was arrested two years ago in connection with a murder case.
He was remanded at the City police headquarters but had since been released on bail.
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