KUALA LUMPUR - A frozen meat company in Johor said to be linked to a syndicate which is being probed for allegedly importing frozen meat and passing it off as halal will be charged in court on Wednesday (Dec 30).
A total of 13 police reports have been lodged over the syndicate, which used fake halal labels, Criminal Investigation Department director Huzir Mohamed said on Tuesday (Dec 29).
"We are investigating under... the Penal Code for causing public fear and alarm," he said in a statement.
The syndicate has also "disrupted public order... and tarnished the nation's image as a halal hub," he said.
Malaysians were last week shaken by reports that a fake halal meat syndicate has purportedly been operating for 40 years by bribing officers with money and sex to allow non-certified meat including potentially diseased kangaroo and horse meat to be smuggled in from overseas and sold as certified halal beef.
Initial investigations revealed that the illegal activity involved a wide network with local and foreign syndicates, said Datuk Huzir.
"We are looking at this matter seriously and we are committed to curbing this activity by cooperation with various agencies including the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry and the Customs Department," he added.
The issue came to light after reports earlier this month that the authorities had busted a company that had been bringing in meat from Ukraine, Brazil, Argentina and China and repackaging it with fake halal labels.
Some 1,500 tonnes of frozen meat worth RM30 million (S$9.8 million), fake labels and rubber stamps were seized during the raid at a warehouse in Senai, Johor.
Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Deputy Minister Rosol Wahid told the Upper House on Tuesday that the seized meat has been tested.
"The findings we got from the Department of Chemistry Malaysia showed that it was not horse meat, not kangaroo meat and not pork," he said in Parliament.
He also denied reports alleging that the syndicate had been operating for 40 years.
"It's not true that the activity has been going on for almost 40 years because the ministry's investigation revealed that the company involved was registered in 2014 and obtained the licence to import frozen products in 2017."
He added that the frozen meat company in Johor said to be linked to the syndicate would be charged in court on Wednesday.
The meat issue has alarmed many Malaysians, with some quarters calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry, and for the country to expand its own cattle industry, to reduce dependency on imports.
Some politicians have also voiced concern that the fiasco calls into question the integrity of Malaysia's halal industry and certification processes.
The Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) responded last week to the news by saying it would tighten enforcement and its procedures for halal certification for imported goods but on Tuesday said that it was not involved in investigations.
Its research division director Sirajuddin Suhaimee, who was previously Jakim's halal hub director, said that 300 agencies were involved in the process of acquiring and verifying halal certification.
"Jakim's main role is to ensure overseas slaughterhouses meet the criteria that we had prepared in accordance with protocols and procedures," he said.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday criticised Jakim for failing to take an active role in the probe and said it should not shift the blame to other government agencies.
"This is a halal issue, not an issue under the Ministry of Agriculture... the one that issues the halal certification is Jakim so there must be a collective responsibility," he said.