MACC hunting down scam enablers

PETALING JAYA: Graft busters are hot on the trail of “professional enablers” after four British nationals, nabbed for their involvement in a scam ring during the recent Op Tropicana, were sentenced to jail.

“In connection to allegations of five banks being monitored by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for involvement in the cheating syndicate, investigations are focused on the individuals involved and do not involve the institutions as a whole.

“They are made up of a group of ‘professional enablers’, including bank officers, accountants and company secretaries who have allowed the syndicate operations to proceed,” said the MACC in a statement yesterday.

It added that efforts to trace the assets and illegal cash believed to be in the millions are underway with Bank Negara Malaysia and foreign enforcement agencies such as Interpol, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UK National Crime Agency.

This, said the MACC, follows the sentencing of four of the group’s main players in the Shah Alam and Butterworth courts on March 16 and 17.

In Butterworth, Lloyd George Bedwell, 48, and Roger Hoi Wing Hu, 46, pleaded guilty before Sessions judge Zulhazmi Abdullah.

They were accused of deceiving victims into believing that they were guaranteed to make a significant profit from a short-term investment by purchasing shares in a company known as Devon Energy Corp, which both of the accused knew did not exist.

They were sentenced to six months’ jail and fined RM100,000.

In Shah Alam, two more British nationals pleaded guilty to similar charges at the Shah Alam Sessions Court.

Shah Alam Sessions Court judge Rozilah Salleh sentenced Andrew Mark Peters, 54, and Darren Anthony McNicholas, 50, to six months’ jail each after they pleaded guilty to their roles in the scam which misled people into making investments in non-existent companies.

They pleaded guilty to inducing a Scottish man, Ian Strachan, to transfer £121,200 (RM579,249) into a CIMB account belonging to Premier Transfers Ltd for a non-existent investment scheme.

In addition, Peters was ordered to pay a RM180,000 fine and was sentenced to an additional 22 months’ imprisonment should he fail to pay the fine, while McNicholas was ordered to pay a RM140,000 fine and faces an additional 16 months’ imprisonment should he fail to pay.

On Feb 21, MACC and four agencies that included the Immigration Department, busted an investment syndicate masterminded by British citizens following 24 raids and the arrest of 81 suspects.

Codenamed Op Tropicana, the raids were conducted simultaneously, including at call centres, companies and houses within the Klang Valley and Penang.

The syndicate, which started in 2019, amassed almost RM200mil after duping victims in Australia and the United Kingdom.

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki had said the syndicate, with members hailing from Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the Philippines, offered fake investment portfolios through advertisements on social media.

It is believed the syndicate was part of an international scam ring that has duped victims across the globe, causing RM1bil in losses.

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