KUALA LUMPUR - A Bangladeshi film director has been detained by the Malaysian police for allegedly trafficking his countrymen, on the pretext of organising a cultural event.
Anonno Mamun was arrested on Sunday evening (Dec 24), together with 18 others, at a cramped condominium unit in Jalan Ipoh, some 10km away from shopping and tourist hub Bukit Bintang.
The arrests came nearly a week after the event Cinematic Bangladeshi Nights was held at a building in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
The district police chief Shaharudin Abdullah for Dang Wangi, which covers Kuala Lumpur, told The Straits Times that Mamun "was detained with 18 others at the condominium for allegedly trafficking his countrymen into Malaysia".
It was learnt that the arrests were made by a special team from the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Unit based on intelligence.
Malaysia is a top destination for foreign labour on account of lax immigration control and high demand for blue-collar work in places such as construction sites and palm plantations.
In June, Malaysia's Home Affairs Ministry said there were 1.78 million migrant workers with valid work permits, with most of them from Indonesia, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Labour sources have estimated that more than a million other foreign workers are in the country without valid work permits or travel documents.
The Malaysian government last week transferred out 600 officers from the immigration department of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, as some were suspected of working with criminal syndicates to smuggle in workers from Bangladesh.
In the current case, a source close to the investigation said the suspect had been under the Malaysian authorities' radar for some time, following a tip-off.
Bangladeshi news site Prothom Alo on Monday reported that Mamun was detained on Sunday over his alleged involvement in trafficking 57 people to Malaysia on the pretext of arranging a cultural event.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to Malaysia Md Shahidul Islam was quoted as saying: "We've learnt about the incident and we're looking into the matter. This kind of incident in a foreign country is very embarrassing."
Presenter of the cultural programme, Debasish Biswas, was also quoted as saying: "He (Mamun) has taken money from all of them. Each of them has already confessed that to the Malaysian police. A team of Malaysian police has talked with us. We had no idea about this before."
Among those who attended last Saturday's cultural event include Biswas, singer Asif Akbar, actresses Mishti Jannat and Anisha Habib Bhabna, and model Anika Kabir Shokh. They have since returned to their homeland.