PUTRAJAYA: Border closures during the movement control order period were a boon for a syndicate that sold illegal passage in and out of the country for foreign workers and illegal immigrants, but it all came crashing down in a massive nationwide blitz.
Codenamed “Ops Selat”, 46 individuals – 27 Immigration officers, 14 foreign workers agents and five civilians who acted as middlemen in the syndicate’s activities – were arrested in Putrajaya, Johor Baru, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching yesterday.
The syndicate, which has infiltrated the Immigration Department, took advantage of the lockdown imposed due to the pandemic to provide illegal services to foreign workers and illegal immigrants.
Believed to have been operating for about a year, the syndicate’s services were even more in demand since the start of the MCO in March.
“The syndicate became more active since the MCO was in place, providing services to foreign workers and undocumented foreigners who were stranded in Malaysia because of the lockdown, ” a source told The Star.The source explained the syndicate was believed to have provided two types of services, including the “flying passport” services where agents will 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 second modus operandi, said sources, is “counter facilities” at the KL International Airport and KLIA2 for illegal immigrants who have been blacklisted and whose visas have expired, and for a fee of between RM500 and RM6,000, they are free to return to their country and enter Malaysia.
However, graft busters got wind of it and after months of surveillance, the authorities made a round of arrests, putting an end to the syndicate’s activities, said the sources.
Yesterday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) brought 44 suspects to court to obtain remand orders to pursue investigations into the syndicate’s activities.
In Putrajaya, 23 individuals, including 14 Immigration officers, were remanded while in Johor Baru, 13 suspects – eight of them Immigration personnel – had been remanded for seven days.
Three Immigration officers and one civilian were remanded for five days in Shah Alam while in Kota Kinabalu, three civilians were also remanded for five days, and in Kuching, an individual had been remanded for seven days.
On the arrest of his men, Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the department would not compromise with staff who abused their power.
“Those involved must be prepared to face legal action and face imprisonment or be sacked if they are found guilty, ” he said.
Khairul assured the arrests did not affect Immigration’s daily operations and its service to the people.
“This is a serious breach of the country’s entry points, ” the source pointed out.
MACC investigation director Datuk Norazlan Mohd Razali confirmed the arrests and did not rule out the possibility of more arrests.
“We are still investigating the case, so there is a possibility that others will be called in to help in the probe.
“The MACC would like to express our appreciation to the Immigration director-general for the cooperation and providing us with information as we work towards crippling the syndicate, ” he added.
Sources said the operation was the result of intelligence and surveillance work done over six months on members of the syndicate operating at the country’s main entry points including KLIA, KLIA2 and the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar in Johor Baru.