JOHOR BARU - The 44-year-old man who was killed in a brazen attack at a petrol station here on Sunday (Dec 17) was involved in illegal money-lending activities and had a long list of drug-related offences, sources told Malay Mail.
Tan Aik Chai had been investigated for a total of 18 cases involving drugs trafficking and possession of drugs, reported the newspaper. The cases dated back to 2004.
"From the cases, investigators were quick to identify his gang affiliations based on associates arrested with him.
"The deceased was said to be known within the state's drug syndicates and also underworld circles. He was also believed to be linked to illegal moneylending syndicates as a loan shark," one of the sources told Malay Mail.
Tan was stabbed and run over twice by four men in a white BMW at the Taman Pelangi Shell station, about 4km from the Causeway linking Malaysia and Singapore, at 7.30pm on Sunday (Dec 17).
The brutal attack was recorded by an eye-witness and went viral on social media, sending shockwaves across Malaysia.
Known among triad members as "Ah Chiu", the deceased was believed to have problems with several members of a rival drug gang based in Johor Baru.
"The dispute between them started when the victim was unable to pay for the supplies he had taken from the syndicate members over several months," a police source was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail.
The source added that the suspects were enraged when Tan started avoiding them and also tarnished their name among other gangs.
"The fact that the victim was murdered in public by being stabbed and run over by a car twice, clearly shows the suspects had a grudge," the source said.
"The suspects made no effort to hide their identities ... they probably wanted to send a strong message."
Born in Malacca, Tan had a listed address at Simpang Renggam in Johor, reported the Malay Mail.
He was arrested in 2004 for possession, custody and control of dangerous drugs in Malacca Tengah, Malacca.
In 2008, he was arrested for marijuana and ecstasy possession and also tested positive for taking drugs in Taman Perling, Johor Baru.
In 2012, he was arrested and investigated seven times mainly for drug offences in Johor Baru. He was also nabbed the same year in Kempas for possession of a car that was reported stolen in Pulau Tikus, Penang.
In 2015 and 2016, he was again arrested for a string of drug offences.
Two suspects, a 22-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, were arrested in Penang on Wednesday (Dec 20) in connection with the case.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohd Fuzi Harun told Malay Mail the police have not ruled out the possibility of the couple being the masterminds.
"We are yet to establish this. However, with the lead we have so far, we are confident to make a breakthrough soon," he said.
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said on Tuesday (Dec 19) the police viewed the case as a serious matter that could undermine the image of the country unless it was handled well.
Tan's body has been brought to Malacca for burial, reported Bernama news agency.