Titled drug lords and VVIP backers

BASED on the number of cases brought to court, we have a surfeit of titled rogues in our midst. They include Datuks who are gangsters, scammers and even wife beaters. Now, we know that there are also drug kingpins holding the titles of Datuk, Datuk Seri and even Tan Sri.

On Saturday, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador disclosed that police had identified several drug lords who have been living in luxury, using their legitimate businesses as fronts for their illegal activities.

The IGP pledged to expose their criminal lives and bring them to justice, or at the very least put them behind bars under the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca), which allows for detention without trial.

Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department (NCID) director Datuk Razarudin Husain later revealed that three individuals with Tan Sri and Datuk titles, all aged 45, who are believed to be masterminds of drug cartels in the country, were being monitored as police gather more information and evidence following the recent arrests of syndicate members.

The legitimate businesses owned by them, including hotels, shipping and logistics firms and metal-related companies, are apparently being used as fronts for their distribution of drugs locally and abroad. These drug lords, however, employ a different set of workers to handle the smuggling, storage and distribution of drugs and not the staff in the legitimate businesses.

Intelligence gathered so far show that the syndicates smuggle drugs to Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Indonesia using cargo planes and ships.

The Tan Sri- and Datuk-led cartels are believed to be behind the 12 tonnes of cocaine, valued at RM2.4bil, seized from the North Butterworth Container Terminal (NBCT) in September 2019.

Police later seized RM366mil worth of assets belonging to a Malaysian drug lord who was found to be behind the smuggling of the cocaine, but he has eluded capture.

On Monday, the IGP clarified that there were not just three Tan Sri and Datuk drug dons, but “more than five”. These people were under close surveillance and would not be allowed to flee the country to evade arrest, he said.

“No, they can’t run away. We have been eyeing them for a very long time. We still have problems getting evidence that can be directly linked to them. Once we have it, action will be taken, ” he vowed.

Interestingly, he also disclosed that police have received information that there were people at a “higher level” who acted as funders of the cartels and there were five syndicates with this VVIP backing. He gave the assurance that these people would also face action, as he did not want the police to be accused of only acting against those at the lower level of drug trafficking.

“This is not an empty warning. I came out with a statement on this previously not to ruin our plan, but I wanted to tell the people that the threat of drugs in the country is very bad.”

The ongoing police probe to net these titled crooks is commendable, but there are questions being asked: “Why have these people been getting away with this for far too long? Is it really because it is difficult to get information on the drug business being conducted? Or is lucrative bribery the main reason for the drug kingpins to remain below the radar?”

It is also evident that anyone who has a lot of money or political influence in Malaysia can easily get titles such as Datuk, Datuk Seri and Tan Sri without doing anything noteworthy.

The other question that begs to be asked is: “Are these people also getting political protection against being caught and exposed? Are they the VVIPs being referred to by the IGP?”

In highlighting the nexus between drug trafficking and corruption, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) noted in its “World Drug Report, 2017” that: “the drug problem and corruption have a mutually reinforcing relationship. Corruption facilitates the production and trafficking of illegal drugs and this, in turn, benefits corruption.

“The wealth and power of some drug trafficking organisations can exceed that of governments, allowing them to buy protection from law enforcement agents, criminal justice institutions, politicians and the business sector. In doing so, they further reinforce corruption. The rule of law is both an immediate victim and, if it is already weak, an underlying factor that feeds this cycle.”

We can only hope that Malaysia has not yet slid to the level described above.

But with drugs already becoming a worrying problem within the police force, the scenario looks more bleak than hopeful.

Last year, 327 police personnel were arrested for drug-related activities under Ops Duri, a major operation conducted between January and October. Although this number was fewer compared to the 566 nabbed in 2019, this was in spite of the travel restrictions under the movement control order and the conditional MCO.

Out of the total, 18 cops were arrested for drug trafficking, 74 for drug possession, 225 for being positive for drugs in urine tests and 10 were held under the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act, 1985.

There were also cases of police personnel involved in other offences, such as the sale of ketum, an offence under the Poisons Act, 1952 (Revised 1989).

Last week, six policemen, including an inspector, were nabbed during a raid at a “wild party” and five of them tested positive for amphetamine, ketamine and methamphetamine. Eight women, including three Indonesians, who were with them in a flat, also tested positive.

The involvement of police personnel in drug abuse and trafficking is another alarming sign that the threat of drugs in Malaysia is indeed very bad.

Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote by Carl Jung: “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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