SHAH ALAM (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Businessman Nicky Liow Soo Hee has claimed trial to 26 charges amounting to more than RM36 million (S$12 million) under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.
Liow, who had been on the run from the police for more than a year, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to him in Mandarin before Sessions Court Judge Helina Sulaiman.
The 34-year-old founder of the Winner Dynasty Group nodded his head and said, "I understand", in Mandarin when asked if he understood what was read to him before claiming trial to all 26 charges.
In submissions for bail, Deputy Public Prosecutor Rozaliana Zakaria asked the court to not allow bail, saying that Liow is accused of committing unbailable offences. In addition, that there is a risk that he may abscond.
“Various efforts have been made to track down the accused through through media releases, Interpol Red Alert notices and arrest warrants to get the accused to appear in court," said Ms Rozaliana.
In response, defence counsel Rajpal Singh said that Liow should be given bail of RM500,000 or a sum less than RM1 million with two sureties as his client voluntarily surrendered himself at the Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department in Jalan Tun Razak on Monday (April 11).
Mr Rajpal said that in the cases of former prime minister Najib Razak and Umno president Zahid Hamidi, both individuals were given bail that amounted to around 1 per cent of the amount involved in the alleged crimes.
Following submissions, Judge Helina set bail at RM1 million and ordered Liow to surrender his passport to the court as well as report himself to the Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID) once every two weeks.
She also fixed May 26 for case management.
Earlier, Liow was brought in to court in handcuffs wearing black pants and a black shirt.
Liow has been on the run since March last year when Johor police conducted a large-scale operation as well as raids in Puchong, Selangor, before arresting 12 individuals.
He had his Datuk Seri title revoked by the Pahang palace in April last year.
Liow is believed to be the boss of an organised crime syndicate that had duped hundreds of victims in scams around Malaysia. The group is also said to be involved in money laundering, illegal moneylending, investment scams and drug trafficking, according to Oriental Daily newspaper.
He is known to have close connections with Macau-based crime boss Wan Kuok Koi, nicknamed "Broken Tooth", Malay Mail reported.
Liow is believed to have amassed a huge fortune and has bought many real estate properties in Malaysia and neighbouring Thailand.
His multimillion-ringgit criminal organisation came apart only when police started investigating a RM1,500 bogus mobile phone sale.
It is learnt that the money paid in the deal went into a "mule account" controlled by the syndicate, triggering a full-blown investigation under "Ops Pelican" that led police to Liow's main centre in Puchong.
It is believed that Liow paid "top money" for information on whether any enforcement agency, including the police, Bank Negara or the Inland Revenue Board, knew of his money laundering or tax evasion activities.
A former deputy public prosecutor is said to be the "fixer" who acquired the information from various agencies, allowing Liow to operate without sounding off any alarm bells among these agencies.
However, once investigations began, police also tracked down and charged his siblings.
More than 100 people were arrested with at least 16 charged in court. More than a dozen enforcement officers, including policemen and anti-corruption officers, were also arrested.
The elusive Liow is said to have fled to a neighbouring country during the police operation. According to sources, Liow had been involved in the transfer of senior enforcement officers who were tracking him down.
Five years ago, he was arrested for assaulting two members of the People's Volunteer Corps - a paramilitary civil volunteer corps formed by the Malaysian government - at the Kou Ong Yah temple in Kuala Lumpur over a traffic dispute. But he was later acquitted and discharged.