Malaysian police have detained about 100 people for sabotage of the country's immigration system.
Disclosing this, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Home Minister, was quoted as saying that those detained were "mostly immigration officers and syndicate members".
"The officers were working with the syndicate for financial gain," he said. Media reports had alerted the authorities to the syndicate, he said, adding that arrests were made after a three-month investigation.
Most of the immigration officers in custody were low-ranking officers stationed at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), the main gateway for travellers into Malaysia, according to The Star daily yesterday.
No further information was available on the syndicate and the extent of the sabotage, although Bernama news agency, quoting the Immigration Department, said the Malaysian Immigration System (myIMMs) could have been compromised as far back as 2010.
But the operator of the electronic myIMMs system, HeiTech Padu, earlier this week claimed it was vulnerable to power and Internet service disruptions, while denying the system had been compromised. The firm's contract was extended from February this year to August next year, according to its stock exchange filing last month.
"We were not involved with the system prior to 2010, but we managed to secure extension agreements several times and this would not be possible if they (Home Ministry) are not happy with the system and our services," Mr Arif Mokthar, chief executive of HeiTech Padu, told the Malay Mail Online.
Malaysia Airports Holdings, operator of both KLIA and KLIA2, responded by disclosing that the immigration system had its own Internet connection, and HeiTech Padu did not file complaints over connectivity issues. It added that the system was connected to the airport's backup power supply.
The Auditor-General's report tabled in Parliament last week also detailed failures of the system, which was introduced to support and improve immigration operations. The audit was carried out between April and November last year, and covered the immigration headquarters in Putrajaya, its six branches nationwide, and offices in Indonesia, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Last Tuesday, before the report was released, Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the system often suffered breakdowns that could last for an hour. He said there was a "high possibility" of collusion within the enforcement agencies to allow travellers to slip through security protocols.
This followed alarm over recent arrests involving a Sri Lankan and two Russians with terror links, as questions were raised over how they could enter Malaysia as the security system is linked to Interpol.
The Home Ministry has set up a task force to investigate the implementation of myIMMs. It is also looking into whether foreigners were involved in the sabotage.