Why KL failed to act against paedophile

Malaysia's police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar, on the Richard Huckle case.
Malaysia's police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar, on the Richard Huckle case.

British officials gave too few details, says Malaysian top cop

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's police chief said yesterday that British officials did not hand over enough information to investigate convicted British paedophile Richard Huckle, as questions arose over the South- east Asian country's handling of the case.

Huckle, 30, was given 22 life sentences in a London court on Monday after admitting to 71 charges of sex abuse against children in Malaysia and Cambodia. His victims were aged from six months to 12 years.

Malaysia faces increasing pressure to explain the lack of action after British officials said they told their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur about his suspected behaviour more than 11/2 years ago.

Malaysians have expressed outrage on social media over the apathy shown by law enforcement and government officials.

Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed that the authorities were informed of Huckle and his suspected behaviour before his arrest in 2014, despite earlier comments from other police officials that they had been told only in April this year.

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When his case went to trial, it was only then that we knew that it was 23 victims, and that it involved our citizens and only then could we start tracing them.

MALAYSIA'S POLICE CHIEF KHALID ABU BAKAR, on the Richard Huckle case.

But British officials were unable to provide them with more details regarding Huckle's victims and activities, Tan Sri Khalid said, adding that Malaysia's death penalty made it difficult for British police to cooperate fully.

"That was our main obstacle when dealing with European countries, because by law, they are unable to cooperate with us because we carry out capital punishment," said Mr Khalid.

"When his case went to trial, it was only then that we knew that it was 23 victims, and that it involved our citizens and only then could we start tracing them."

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

Mr Khalid said he would ask that Malaysian officers be allowed to interrogate Huckle in prison in order to get more details about his crimes and victims.

A Malaysian non-governmental organisation has started holding workshops on sexual abuse for children of a poor Indian community, once a haunt of Huckle's.

"Now that this case is over, I hope that the British authorities will no longer hold back any information from us," said the police chief, who did not rule out the possibility of extradition even though Huckle had been convicted and sentenced.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's police headquarters has warned that anyone intending to release the identities of the victims of Huckle will be liable to jail time of up to five years or a RM10,000 (S$3,300) fine, or both.

Federal Criminal Investigation Department director Mohmad Salleh said the police hoped all parties would respect the privacy of the victims and their families.

REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Why KL failed to act against paedophile'. Print Edition | Subscribe