Malaysia makes arrests in immigration department scandal

People waiting for immigration proceedings at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 28, 2016.
People waiting for immigration proceedings at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - Malaysian police said on Thursday (June 9) more than 10 people have been arrested after an investigation found immigration department staff had colluded with criminal groups to manipulate information on who entered or left the country, local media said.

The subterfuge was centred at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and had begun in 2010, the department's director-general, Sakib Kusmi, earlier said.

"We are still investigating. So far we have made more than 10 arrests and have seized documents from them as well," national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar was quoted as saying by English-language newspaper The Star.

Five of those arrested were reportedly immigration department officers, while the roles of the others were not immediately clear.

No further details were given.

Authorities sacked 15 immigration officers and suspended 14 others last week over security breaches which allowed criminal syndicates to manipulate systems that track entry and exit.

Around two dozen other department staff have faced administrative action or were under observation and 63 have been transferred, the immigration department said last week.

Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi said last month that about 100 people, including immigration officers and criminal syndicate members, were under investigation over the breaches.

No mention was made of any terrorist or extremist involvement in the affair.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has said that scores of its citizens have gone to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, and authorities have been on heightened alert against extremists returning to carry out attacks at home.