IT’S a shocking revelation – Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said many times that several individuals, including those with “Tan Sri”, “Datuk Seri” and “Datuk” titles have been identified as the masterminds behind more than five drug syndicates in the country.
The Inspector General of Police said once sufficient evidence is gathered to pin these ringleaders, the police will take action.
There are many titled individuals with dubious backgrounds running around, and Malaysians have rightly questioned their credentials for Datuk and Datuk Seri titles.
However, there aren’t many Tan Sri, although more are surfacing in recent years.
Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director, Datuk Razarudin Husain, took it a step further by revealing these people were not politicians but businessmen.
He provided more hints, saying these criminal VIPs used their status to build networks with other influential people to launder illicit gains from criminal activities. And to avoid detection by the authorities, the funds were used for ventures in hospitality, shipping, transport and steel industries, he added.
Following this titbit of info, the media and businessmen, especially those with Tan Sri titles, have been trading notes to find out what they’ve heard.
The police have provided no extra clues, except that the businesses these VIP crooks are involved in are only a front, to conceal their unlawful trade, and to “hide” their dirty money.
There has been speculation, naturally, that since the drug raid was in Penang, the implicated Tan Sri could be from there, too. However, he could just as well be living in another state.
The person could also be someone who eschews the limelight, and is likely not a household name, although the occasional philanthropic appearances would be necessary.
After all, no titled personality can escape being approached for charitable causes.
In January, the IGP announced that police arrested eight men and seized RM366mil worth of assets and properties linked to a drug syndicate, following a raid in Butterworth, Penang.
The follow up operation this month was to identify and seize all assets belonging to the main suspect in the syndicate.
The Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department team has seized RM6,960 in cash, another RM21.68mil in an account, RM143mil worth of shares, properties worth RM198mil, various types of vehicles worth RM2.7mil and jewellery worth RM51,800.
The drugs were seized following a police operation at a warehouse in the Seberang Jaya Industrial Estate in Penang.
When elaborating on the case, Hamid said the main suspect, who is from Penang, had fled to another country after the first “Ops Eagle Diamond” operation was conducted last year.
He said police were now cooperating with their counterparts from that country to nab the kingpin.
“With our good relationship with international enforcement agencies, we are confident in tracking down the main suspect.”
So, the main culprit has escaped, and we aren’t sure if the police have found him.
Despite the media excitement over the Tan Sri drug lord, the police seem to have given a disclaimer too, saying they “would not rush to take action against them as the police needed to collect enough evidence first.”
Now, that’s worrying because these Tan Sri and Datuks won’t be working from home like the rest of Malaysia, and neither will they be watching endless Netflix movies during the Movement Control Order (MCO).
They would have left Malaysia, MCO or not, now that the police have publicly revealed their pursuit and even named the Tan Sri and their trades.
Indonesians have also attempted to leave or enter Malaysia illegally during the MCO period, and that’s what Ops Benteng is supposed to tackle.
These VIP tycoons with ill-gotten gains would have enough resources to leave the country comfortably. They won’t need to use the lorong tikus or illegal jungle tracks.
Had they been arrested and held for questioning, then it would be much easier for the police to wrap up the case. But these head honchos can afford a battery of lawyers to argue against all forms of detention or remand.
We wish the police every success in concluding their investigations soon because the media expects the Tan Sri and his Datuk associates to be charged in court soon, or at least be remanded.
The latest episode reveals the lack of checking by some states in awarding titles to businessmen. Some are far too young to earn the Datuk title, and some have barely contributed to the said states or country.
The cynics among us would say, well, they probably contributed monetarily, but to which individuals or organisations would be the question. Maybe they are legitimate.
Intriguingly, a confession video of a Datuk proudly claiming he’s a gangster, has gone viral.
Recently, a Datuk and a Datuk Seri challenged each other to a fight. So now, the legitimacy of titles is being questioned.
Except for certain states, particularly Selangor, none of the rest provide an online registrar of titles for public perusal. Anyone can claim to be a Datuk, act like one and be addressed as one, and walk away with impunity.
It’s said that if a Datuk threw a stone, it would hit another. But recently, if it’s not another Datuk, it could be a Datuk’s son.
There have been strong statements from the police in the past about locating certain wanted individuals, but attempts have fallen short of expectations. Let’s hope this won’t be one of them.
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.