KUALA LUMPUR- The owner of a roadside burger chain has been hailed as a hero for releasing two videos to allege Malaysian police and city council officers were "protecting" gambling-machine syndicates and foreign migrants selling contraband cigarettes in a Selangor township where he operates one of his stalls.
Asri Janggut (Bearded Asri), founder of the Hot Burger chain, was at first investigated by the police, and had his stall raided by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) for making the claims.
But this created a huge uproar among netizens, saying the authorities were zooming in on the wrong target.
"Those who side with corrupters or protect illegal foreigners, gambling dens must be stopped," wrote one poster on a YouTube video discussing Mr Asri's expose, among the hundreds of comments supporting the burger entrepreneur, and shooting venom at the authorities.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission stepped in on Tuesday (Aug 11) to arrest four MBSA officers to probe a possible protection racket. The council's enforcement director was nabbed on Friday.
And the authorities have promised that action against these illegal activities will continue.
Malaysiakini news site reported its sources as saying the council officers were believed to have received between RM300 and RM3,500 (S$98 to S$1,145) in bribes a month, from each business premises, including unlicensed food stalls, contraband cigarettes shops and gambling outlets.
The uproar started when Mr Asri, whose real name is Mohd Asri Hamid, 42, posted a video on his Hot Burger Facebook page which showed rows of dilapidated shophouses in Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh where he claimed gambling-machine syndicates freely run illegal operations behind closed doors.
In another video, Mr Asri showed what he claimed were "foreigners" standing by the roadside to sell cigarettes imported illegally from Indonesia.
The two videos had more than four million views since they were posted some three weeks ago, with netizens clamouring for the authorities to jump into action.
Mr Asri said he recorded the videos after his complaints about these activities came to nought.
"I made police reports about three months ago by sending pictures and videos. After these gambling shops shut down for two days, they restarted their operations again," he said in one video. "What is even more sad is that there were (gambling) towkays who knew it was me who gave the information" to the authorities.
The Sungai Buloh district police's immediate reaction was to say they would investigate Mr Asri for denigrating their "credibility", while the city council raided the Hot Burger stall and other stalls in the area.
Sungai Buloh district's police chief Superintendent Shafa'aton Abu Bakar said Mr Asri's claims damaged the police's reputation.
She said that in the seven months of this year, police had conducted 40 raids and made 132 arrests for gambling in the district.
But spurred by netizens and supported by the Malaysia Muslim Consumer Association, Mr Asri appeared on Facebook Live and in media interviews to give his side of the story.
Search "Asri Janggut" in YouTube today and one can find more than 200 videos from mainstream and Internet media of him talking about the issue and defending himself, and others commenting on what he did.
Malaysia's police chief Abdul Hamid Bador later met Mr Asri to assure him that action would be taken.
Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin visited to Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh area to see for himself the shophouses where the illegal gambling dens were said to have proliferated.
Mr Asri's lawyer, Mr Ahmad Amzar Ahmad Azlan, said on Friday that the arrests of the MBSA officers occurred after people like Mr Asri exposed the truth.
"We can see now that after the issue was exposed, arrests were made. So, the viral expose was not done in vain.
"And this is just Sungai Buloh in Selangor. We do not know about other places in other states," Mr Ahmad said.
"Bro Asri..... Keep up the good work!" wrote Zaridah Majid in a comment on YouTube.