'Runner' caught in Melaka raid may be ringleader

The Melaka CID district chief (left) was one of the suspects linked to the syndicate arrested by investigators last week. Another district police chief was arrested, along with the syndicate's alleged leader.
The Melaka CID district chief (left) was one of the suspects linked to the syndicate arrested by investigators last week. Another district police chief was arrested, along with the syndicate's alleged leader.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

An unassuming 50-year-old man who was caught last week is suspected to be the ringleader of a syndicate that had a monopoly on gambling and prostitution and received protection from senior Melaka policemen, sources say.

The man was thought to be just a runner for the crime gang when he was nabbed last week, but investigators checked his phone messages and saw how he had "directed" senior cops in the central Malaysian state to do his bidding, a source familiar with the case told The Straits Times.

The Melaka-based syndicate was uncovered recently, with the man arrested along with 10 others. Those nabbed as part of a big swoop called Ops Gapi (Operation Gapi) included two of the three district police chiefs in Melaka.

One reason the police operation was named Gapi was because it closely resembles the man's name.

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The man, the authorities believe, had paid more than RM1 million (S$323,608) to state police to protect his racket and conduct raids on his rivals instead.

"He really knows how to keep himself off the radar with his appearance. No one in the team would have suspected that he was the leader as the man does not dress extravagantly," one source told The Straits Times.

The 50-year-old is suspected of being the main conduit for bribes to Melaka policemen since he "took over" several districts to run vice activities, the sources say. Investigators were uncertain how long the syndicate had been active.

Several text messages found on his phone revealed him to be instructing "his men" - including the state police - to do his bidding, The Straits Times has learnt.

"In one of the messages, it is clearly shown that he gave an order to one of the police chiefs to conduct a raid at a specific location.

"In another text message, new officers and personnel at the districts were also made to 'report for duty' to him," the source added.

A team of investigators from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have seen his text messages instructing the district police chiefs to carry out occasional raids.

"But here's the interesting part - the raids were done only at his rival's gambling den. It shows just how much power he had over the police there, to the extent of having the 'authority' to 'remove' some people, especially when it involved his rivals," the source said.

On Monday, a magistrate in Putrajaya granted an extension on the remand order for nine individuals, including the 50-year-old man and the two district police chiefs, until May 27.

In the case's latest development, the Alor Gajah crime investigation department chief has been detained to facilitate investigations. The 51-year-old assistant superintendent was picked up yesterday morning by the MACC.

Nadirah H. Rodzi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline ''Runner' caught in Melaka raid may be ringleader'. Print Edition | Subscribe