Growing pressure on Malaysian authorities over handling of UK paedophile case

Huckle (second from left) at a social event in September 2014.
Huckle (second from left) at a social event in September 2014. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities faced increasing pressure on Tuesday (June 7) to explain how they handled the case of the convicted paedophile Richard Huckle after British officials said they told their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur about his suspected behaviour more than 18 months ago.

Huckle, 30, was detained when he arrived at London's Gatwick airport from Malaysia in December 2014, and was charged with sexually abusing dozens of children for at least nine years, mostly in Kuala Lumpur.

He was sentenced to life in prison on Monday.

"I believe if indeed the Malaysian authorities failed to take reparatory steps since 2014 then an immediate investigation must be launched...," said Nurul Izzah Anwar, a member of parliament for the opposition PKR and also the daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Nurul Izzah said results of the investigation must be presented to parliament. "A serious breach of security of our borders, religious institutions and havens for underprivileged children have taken placed and we must never allow this breach to repeat in future,"she said.

The Malaysian police have said they were only told about Huckle by Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) in April this year.

Huckle, dubbed the UK's worst paedophile by the British media, was sentenced for abusing 23 Malaysian and Cambodian children and babies, including one aged just six months.

He is believed to have targeted nearly 200 children over a span of nine years, posing as a photographer, English teacher and western philanthropist to gain access to impoverished families, mostly in Malaysia.

Sharmila Sekaran, chairman of the welfare group Voice of the Children (VoC), said if the Malaysian authorities had been informed in 2014 and there had been no response then they delayed providing help and counseling to the abused children.

That, though, was much less significant than the failure to detect Huckle's behaviour over nine years.

"The fact is that from 2006 to 2014 he was here abusing our children. Why did we not know? Why did we not pick him up? We need to do some serious, honest soul-searching," she said. "This was systematic rampant abuse in our own backyard - how could it have gone undetected until someone else informed us?"

Asked why the authorities may not have responded after first being informed, she said: "Why they didn't do anything - I don't know. Maybe they didn't know what they could do."

INFORMATION SHARED

NCA deputy director, Andrew Brennan, told reporters after Huckle's sentencing on Monday that the British had informed the Malaysian authorities of Huckle's case in November 2014 and shared "all the information and all of the intelligence" that they had on Huckle at that time.

"Let me assure you we have met Malaysian authorities on a number of occasions throughout autumn of 2014," Brennan said. "When it became clear they (Malaysia) didn't have sufficient evidence to arrest him, we made the decision that we would arrest him in December 2014," Brennan said outside of London's Old Bailey court.

The British High Commission also told Reuters in a statement on Tuesday that it had been engaged with the Malaysians since 2014.

"Where British nationals commit such offences, anywhere in the world, we will work to bring offenders to justice and ensure victims get the right protection and treatment," said a spokesman for the British High Commission.

"International cooperation is critical for that. Our engagement with the Malaysian authorities on the Richard Huckle case, since 2014, reflects that."

The Malaysian police did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the British High Commission's statement.

Ong Chin Lan, a senior officer in the police's Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division, told state news agency Bernama that the NCA did not provide any information on Huckle's case because he had been on trial.

Huckle, who awarded himself points for his crimes, had boasted on the dark web that those from poor communities made easier victims than well-to-do Westerners. He filmed and photographed the rape and abuse of children, and shared it online with paedophiles worldwide.

According to a leader from an Indian community that Huckle frequented, the Malaysian police only visited them for the first time on Monday.

The Malaysian police said in a statement on Tuesday that they are working with the NCA and a Malaysian ministry in charge of children's rights to identify and provide support to Huckle's victims and their families.