Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar yesterday said a suspected ringleader in a major protection racket involving officers in Melaka is known to him and his family, but denied knowledge of the man's illegal activities.
Gopinathan Krishnan, 50, is suspected of being the main conduit for bribes to Melaka policemen and of running vice activities, including gambling and prostitution, in the central Malaysian state.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid, when asked by reporters about an online media report on the link, said: "Yes, he is known to me, and he is also known to my family. But I am not aware of his alleged illegal activities."
He was speaking to the media after attending an event, following an allegation made in the Sarawak Report news site on Tuesday.
"People know me and my family members, and if we have engaged in illegal activities, we have to answer for this," said Tan Sri Khalid.
Gopinathan, better known as Gopi, was one of 13 suspects arrested in an operation called Ops Gapi last month.
The Straits Times reported last month that several text messages from Gopi instructing senior Melaka policemen to carry out occasional raids on his rivals had been sighted by investigators. Two Melaka district police chiefs and about a dozen other people are under investigation.
Last month, Mr Khalid reshuffled the Melaka state police, and said another revamp is coming.
He said yesterday: "My number is so readily available that I do not know some of those who contact me. But the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is welcome to check my billing information to facilitate its probe."
He declined to elaborate on the relationship he and his family have with Gopi.
Sarawak Report, which is run by journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown from London, claimed that Gopi had direct phone access to Mr Khalid, his son, 26, and his brother-in-law.
"It is not possible for me to know everything he does, but I will not turn a blind eye to him. In this case, if this Gopi has done something illegal... my officers and I will fully cooperate with the MACC," Mr Khalid said. He added that Sarawak Report is "assisted" in its reports by a deregistered local anti-crime watchdog called MyWatch, which harbours ill intentions towards him and the police.
He was quoted by the Malaysiakini news site as saying: "Unless it can be proven that I had benefited, be it in the form of money or otherwise, from the illegal activities perpetrated by these individuals, then there is nothing left to say.
"Yes, there is the issue of perception. But perception is not tantamount to guilt."
In a WhatsApp message to The Straits Times, Mr Khalid wrote: "This is almost a similar case to the one involving MyWatch chairman R. Sri Sanjeevan. He was also known to me and used to call me. But after knowing his illegal activities, we took action against him."
The Sarawak Report allegations have made investigators "unhappy" as these could jeopardise the probe, according to sources who spoke to The Straits Times.
"It is too premature to directly link the top cop to the racket. By revealing that piece of information, it is as though it is already confirmed that the Inspector-General of Police is part of it," one source said.