‘Datuk’ among five nabbed

KUALA LUMPUR: A day after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) crippled a “project cartel” believed to involve government projects worth billions of ringgit, a syndicate involved in hacking into the Immigration Department’s system and selling forged foreign workers’ permits was busted with more that RM25mil worth of property and luxury items seized.

Five suspects, including a “Datuk”, were arrested in Kuala Lumpur and Sungai Petani, Kedah during a joint operation by the MACC and Immigration Department on Tuesday, with more arrests expected pending ongoing investigations into the possibility of inside help from the Immigration Department.

“No immigration officers have been arrested so far, but I believe that there was inside help.

“There will be no compromise if there are arrests of officers based on ongoing investigations by the MACC.

“The department will cooperate and weed them out,” Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud told a press conference held at the MACC office in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

With investigations still ongoing, Khairul said he was not at liberty to divulge details on those who were likely to be arrested by the MACC.

“I am not discounting further arrests,” he said, adding that several electronic devices were found in the department’s lobby and work stations of several officers.

He said the ongoing probe would determine whether the hackers were able to access other areas of the department’s computer system room.

He said initial investigations revealed that one of the suspects was a former immigration officer who left the department several years ago.

Khairul Dzaimee said the former officer was believed to have assisted the syndicate on how to hack the department’s computer system and forge foreign worker temporary employment visit passes (PLKS).

Based on investigations, he said the syndicate was believed to have raked in RM4.7mil in 2018 to produce forged PLKS permits for foreign workers in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors.

He said the forged PLKS permits were sold between RM5,000 and RM6,500, mainly for workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia.

“A total of 21,378 forged PLKS permits are believed to have been issued by the syndicate.

“We will be tracking down these foreign workers, who will be detained and deported,” Khairul Dzaimee said, adding that action would also be taken against their employers.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki, who was also present at the press conference, said the Immigration Department started its internal probe into the syndicate last year and roped in the MACC to bust the syndicate.

Besides the arrests, he said MACC also seized RM491,110 in local and foreign currencies, three houses, 66 vehicles including 12 luxury cars, 34 luxury watches and an array of equipment used to hack the Immigration Department’s IT system to produce the PLKS stickers for foreign worker permits worth RM25.56mil.

“We also froze 147 bank accounts belonging to 30 individuals and 11 companies totalling RM9.9mil,” he said, adding that the amount of money to be frozen is expected to increase once the banks complete their accounting process.

On the arrests, Azam said the five suspects, aged between 33 and 43, would be remanded for six days to facilitate investigations.

“The Datuk was arrested in Kuala Lumpur and he is believed to be the mastermind behind the syndicate,” he said, adding that a former immigration officer was also among those arrested.

Apart from corruption, he said the suspects would also be investigated for money laundering.

“We view the crime as one that threatens national security,” Azam added.

The syndicate, believed to have been operating since 2017, is said to have installed transmitters in the IT system room to hack into the Immigration Department’s database.

This allowed the syndicate to change passwords of immigration officers and subsequently print the PLKS from their own operations centre outside the department’s office.

It was reported yesterday that the findings of the 2018 Auditor-General’s report had led authorities to the discovery.

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