PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Graft busters could not believe their eyes when they investigated an immigration syndicate offering "special services" - a fleet of luxury cars comprising a Phantom Rolls Royce, Mustang, Range Rover and an Audi.
Not bad for an Immigration officer in the KP19 grade, where the salary range is only RM1,360 (S$446) to RM4,052, not including allowances.
The four cars were seized, adding to an overall haul that included more than RM800,000 in cash, 22 other luxury cars, four high-powered motorcycles, as well as other assets such as houses, plots of land, jewellery and designer handbags.
Living within your means is sound advice for anyone, but perhaps more so if you're going to run foul of the law.
The seizures came as part of a nationwide blitz codenamed "Ops Selat" (Operation Strait), which has also seen the arrest of 50 people involved in the syndicate: 28 Immigration Department officers, 17 foreign worker agents and five others.
The latest arrest on Friday (Nov 20) involved an Immigration officer and three foreign worker agents who have been remanded for six days.
On Saturday, three more Immigration officers including a deputy director stationed at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) were detained by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
The latest arrests brought the number of those detained in Ops Selat since Nov 16 to 53, including 33 Immigration officers stationed at KLIA, second terminal KLIA2 and at Johor Baru's CIQ complex at Bangunan Sultan Ismail.
The syndicate providing "stamping facilities" to foreign workers and illegal immigrants is believed to be involved in international human trafficking, particularly in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
This was discovered during investigations into the syndicate which found that foreign agents had been working with Immigration officers at KLIA and KLIA2 to help foreigners enter and leave Malaysia.
Sources close to the MACC said investigators were shocked to discover that a low-ranking immigration officer possessed a fleet of luxury cars.
Commenting on the arrests, Mohamed Arshad Raji, president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot) of retired servicemen said in a statement on Saturday: "The large number of arrests is an indication of the inherent weakness in the management, operation and control of the Immigration Department.
"It is unbelievable that so many recalcitrant officers had been allowed to carry out their illegal activities for so long unnoticed by their superiors, unless the superiors are themselves a party to the illegal activity."
The authorities found that the setting up of the entire process and also special Immigration counters at KLIA and KLIA2 involved international syndicates and local agents.
"Visitors who have been blacklisted but want to enter Malaysia will be assisted by agents overseas who will provide their Malaysian counterparts with the visitors' details.
"The local agents will then contact immigration officers at KLIA and KLIA2 to 'set up' counters to facilitate the foreigners' entry, " a source told The Star.
A similar process was carried out when a foreigner - who has either been blacklisted, has a visit pass that has expired or possesses a fake passport - wanted to leave the country.
"We found out that the luxury cars were registered under two Chinese nationals believed to be foreign workers' agents operating here, as well as under the names of two local agents, " said the source.
The syndicate, whose services were in high demand since the movement control order was imposed in March, is believed to have provided the "flying passport" services where agents would collect passports belonging to foreign workers and illegal immigrants whose social visit passes had expired.
The passports would then be given immigration exit and entry stamps by the syndicate to allow the permits to be extended, which is a violation of procedure as the owner of a travel document must be present during the immigration process. It is believed that the syndicate charges between RM500 and RM6,000 for "counter" facilities.
The syndicate, which has been in operation since 2017, is believed to have raked in RM14.5mil.
Intelligence revealed that the syndicate had provided their "flying passport" and "counter services" to at least 30,000 foreign workers and illegal immigrants.
MACC investigations director Datuk Norazlan Mohd Razali confirmed the arrests, saying that the suspects were being investigated under the MACC Act and the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.