Giving a bogus business a classy sheen

End of the line: Comm Ramli pointing out the individuals arrested in Kuala Lumpur during the press conference on online scams at Menara KPJ, Kuala Lumpur. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: It looked every inch like a foreign mission, complete with armed guards patrolling the bungalow.

But it was no consulate. It was the headquarters of conmen.

The syndicate of scammers took over a former foreign consulate office and residence in the heart of the city here and turned it into a call centre for its bogus investment plan.

To keep up the appearance of an operational consulate, they had armed guards patrolling the compound.

Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) got wind of the syndicate’s operations and conducted a sting operation last week.

Its director Comm Datuk Seri Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf said the bungalow was raided on Nov 22.

“We arrested 28 individuals there including seven Chinese, four Bruneians and four South Koreans.

“We also seized a notebook, one tablet device, one laptop as well as 41 mobile phones, 13 passports, and a Lexus,” he told reporters yesterday.

Comm Ramli said police had identified the owner of the bungalow as a Malaysian who is currently overseas.

Fake facade: Two of the four houses in Kuching that were raided by police for being used as call centres offering non-existent jobs.Fake facade: Two of the four houses in Kuching that were raided by police for being used as call centres offering non-existent jobs.

He added that the bungalow was a former foreign consulate office and residence.

“The syndicate also hired armed guards and maintained the consulate signage in order to dupe the authorities.

“Based on our investigations, the syndicate offered bogus investments and promised high returns in a short time frame,” he said, adding that it promised returns in the form of Tether (USDT) cryptocurrency.

Investors, he said, were offered seven packages ranging between USDT 155 (RM720) and USDT 31,000 (RM144,168).

“The syndicate promised daily returns of between 1% and 2% which would be paid via the portal managed by the syndicate.

“We have opened investigations under Section 420 of the Penal Code for cheating,” he said.

Comm Ramli added that the 13 Malaysians arrested had been released on bail while the foreigners had been remanded under the Immigration Act for further action.

Checks revealed that the syndicate targeted victims from Malaysia, China, Brunei and South Korea.

“We wish to advise the public who are interested in making investment using cryptocurrency to refer to the Securities Commission.

“As of today, only five companies have been permitted by the SC to deal in cryptocurrency – Luno Malaysia Sdn Bhd, Hata Digital Sdn Bhd, MX Global Sdn Bhd, Sinergy Dax Sdn Bhd and Tokenize Technology (M) Sdn Bhd,” he said.

Comm Ramli warned owners to ensure that their premises were being used only for legitimate activities.

“They could be held responsible for being complicit in illicit activities taking place in their premises,” he added.

In an unrelated case, Comm Ramli said police arrested 65 people and crippled a job scam syndicate in Kuching, Sarawak, after raiding four houses on Nov 27.

“We arrested 65 Malaysians aged from 16 to 50 years. The syndicate was operating a call centre offering non-existent jobs,” he said, adding that a 45-year-old man, believed to be the mastermind of the scam, was also arrested.

The police, he said, also seized 137 mobile phones, 45 computers, six modems, a laptop, five watches and four vehicles.

“Based on our checks, the syndicate was targeting victims from Australia and South America,” he said.

Comm Ramli said victims were recruited to write reviews to promote a website offering cheap flight tickets.

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