‘Immigration syndicate’ believed to have raked in at least RM14mil

PUTRAJAYA: The syndicate providing Immigration “stamping facilities” to foreign workers and illegal immigrants is believed to have raked in RM14.5mil in payments over the four years it has been operating.

Following the arrest of Immigration officers during a special operation codenamed “Ops Selat”, graft investigators discovered the syndicate has been in business since 2017 and is believed to have been making around RM3.6mil a year.

Sources with knowledge on the investigation said the Immigration officers involved in the syndicate have been living the “high life”, thanks to money from their illegal activities.

“We believe that some had purchased houses, cars, branded handbags, jewellery and plots of land. So luxurious was their lifestyle that some could even afford to buy a collection of watches at RM30,000 and a gaming computer worth RM18,000, ” said a source close to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The source said intelligence revealed that the syndicate had provided their “flying passport” and “setting counter” services to at least 30,000 foreign workers and illegal immigrants over the years.

The foreigners are those who had committed various offences under the Immigration Act, including failure to produce return air tickets and not having sufficient cash to enter the country.

“The intel showed that KLIA and KLIA2 are the easiest points for the movement of foreign workers and illegal immigrants.

“The MACC and the Immigration Department have taken action before but somehow it did not scare or affect the rest, ” said the source.

The source said he also believes that the rotation system implemented by the department to prevent corrupt practices and power abuse did little to solve the problem.

The source pointed out that the use of technology also did not help in curbing abuse among Immigration personnel as it was discovered that they had “acted” as if they had stamped passports belonging to foreigners when the actual fact is they did not do it.

“Another stumbling block faced by investigators is that there was no proof of activities as all transactions were made in cash and were paid by agents at different locations. There are also those who use third party accounts for the purpose.

“However, investigators managed to uncover the syndicate and its activities by going undercover. That was how authorities managed to nab the culprits, ” he said.

On Monday (Nov 16), the MACC crippled the syndicate, whose services are said to be highly sought after since the movement control order was enforced in March.

Investigators nabbed 46 people – 27 Immigration officers, 14 foreign workers’ agents and five civilians who acted as middlemen in the syndicate’s activities – during a special blitz in Putrajaya, Selangor, Johor Baru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

The syndicate was believed to have provided two types of services, including “flying passport” services where agents would collect passports belonging to foreign workers and illegal immigrants whose social visit passes have expired.

The passports will then be given the Immigration’s exit and entry stamps by the syndicate to allow the permits to be extended, which is a violation of procedure as the owner of a travel document must be present during the Immigration process, said the source.

The other “service” involved “counter facilities” at KLIA and KLIA2 for illegal immigrants who have been blacklisted and whose visas have expired. For a fee of between RM500 and RM6,000, they were free to return to their countries of origin and re-enter Malaysia, according to sources.

Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the department will not compromise with staff who abuse their power for personal gain.

“Those involved must be prepared to face legal action and face imprisonment or be sacked, if they are found guilty, ” he said.

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