Flashback #Star50: Botak Chin – the ‘lucky’ gangster

Notorious gangster: The front page cover of ‘The Star’ on Jan 12, 1977, a day after Botak Chin was sentenced to death by the High Court.Notorious gangster: The front page cover of ‘The Star’ on Jan 12, 1977, a day after Botak Chin was sentenced to death by the High Court.

LUCK. Botak Chin had luck, said retired top cop Tan Sri Mohd Zaman Khan.

“He had luck like I had never seen before,” he said of the man named Wong Swee Chin aka Botak Chin.

For better or for worse, Botak Chin was a household name in Malaysia.

When Zaman was the Criminal Investigation Department chief in Kuala Lumpur, Botak Chin was on top of his to-catch list.

And till today, the 80-year-old Zaman could recall how difficult it was to catch him.

“If you had gone to Sentul where Botak Chin started out, it was impossible to get information on him.

“Wherever he went, he would give people RM10 or RM20, which was a princely sum back then.

“The locals there liked him. And maybe they were also afraid of him,” he said.

While there was the urban legend that Botak Chin carried several Siamese talismans that granted him invincibility and invisibility, Zaman had a more practical assumption: Botak Chin, at his peak, was a gangster boss with a great many gunmen under him. And he had a deep network of informants.

Zaman shared an incident which he said he was “ashamed” to talk about.

“Once, we received a tip-off that our ‘friend’ was having a party at a bungalow in Kenny Hills.

“We rushed there as fast as we could. When we stormed the bungalow, we found condoms everywhere. But everyone had gone.

“They had been having a wild party. The food was still fresh and half-eaten,” he said.

Somehow, Zaman said Botak Chin was tipped off that police were heading there.

“But we could never find evidence of his mole in the police force,” he said.

Recalling how audacious the criminal was, Zaman said Botak Chin even called the cops once.

“We were having a meeting when one of our inspectors had a phone call. He took the call in front of us and suddenly he went quiet and after the call, he looked frightened.

“Our friend had called the inspector to say how unhappy he was that we had started a rumour about him killing one of his own men,” he said.

Zaman said the rumour came about after a gunfight somewhere in Bukit Bintang with his gang.

“One of his gang members was shot dead and a rumour was started that Botak Chin had killed him. We wanted to lure him out, and he called us directly,” Zaman recalled with a chuckle.

While many people saw him for the notorious gangster that he was, others viewed him as a modern-day Robin Hood.

The Star published a report on June 27, 2010, under the heading “Where Botak Chin met his end”, quoting someone who recalled a story about the gangster’s apparent compassion for an elderly ice-cream seller.

It seemed that Botak Chin reached into his pocket, gave the man a few thousand ringgit and told him to go home and rest.

Among the more notable crimes under his belt included gunning down a security guard who was delivering a cache of money to a turf club.

The infamous gangster, who had evaded capture despite multiple shootouts with law enforcement, was finally caught by the long arm of the law after being wounded during a shootout at a sawmill in Jalan Ipoh on Feb 16, 1976.

Even behind bars at the Pudu prison, Botak Chin was not one to accept his sentence sitting down, with a failed escape attempt leading to several prison wardens injured.

One man, who was there at Botak Chin’s final moments in Pudu prison, recounted that as the door to his cell was opened to take him to the execution chamber, Botak Chin said: “Sudah sampai ah?”

On June 11, 1981, Botak Chin was hanged. He was 30.

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