Corrupted Customs racket busted: gold bars, cash seized from dirty Customs officers!


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Customs racket busted
New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA – A nationwide swoop on Customs officers has resulted in 62 staff being arrested so far, with 17 of them to be remanded soon.

Of the total, 48were from Port Klang, one of five Customs premises raided over theweek by a high-powered task force led by the Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission. The other premises were in Kuantan, Penang and the Tanjung Pelepas and Pasir Gudang ports in Johor.

Those arrested were rank and file and senior officers, among them nine female staff.

The arrests were disclosed by MACC investigation division director Datuk Mustafar Ali here yesterday.

He said some of the officers had been released on bail.

The task force, which on Monday had crippled a network involving Customs officers that had been siphoning billions of ringgit of the country’s revenue, is investigating the smuggling of some RM10 billion(S$4.2bil) overseas.

The MACC said the amount was based on investigations and from questioning the 62 officers who had been arrested.

Following the arrest in the east coast of a state Customs director and his wife for their alleged involvement in the network earlier this week, Mustafar said 17 officers would be remanded soon under the ongoing Ops 3b.

The 17 are believed to be part of the network, which is alleged to have been asking and receiving gratification from forwarding agents, to reduce duties and to expedite processes involved in bringing in imports.

Mustafar said during the surveillance and probes into the officers’ involvement, MACC had noted highflying lifestyles of not only some of the senior officers but also among the rank and file.

He said long before Ops 3b, which began on March 28, Customs officers at the ports, including junior officers, were seen driving posh cars.

Investigations revealed that many of them had hundreds of thousands of ringgit in their bank accounts.

Checks also revealed that one officer had RM10,000 credited into his account seven times.

At the home of an officer, the task force found at least RM12,000, while others had invested RM200,000 in Amanah Saham Bumiputera. Among other items believed to be illicitly obtained were a luxury gold watch and two fake guns with 241 bullets, as well as flashy cars.

Mustafar said the officers also revealed that they were receiving between RM100 and RM500 for each Customs declaration form in which the importer had under-declared the value of the items brought in.

It was also disclosed that in one raid on Friday, a Customs officer was found with three bags of cash, totalling about RM625,000, and five gold bars worth RM50,000.

“One of these officers had half-amillion ringgit in his account and another had RM850,000.

“We are going all out to plug the gaps for these dirty hands, which results in billions of ringgit in losses to the country,” he said, adding that investigations would also determine the source of the money and items that were in their possession.

On the case of the state director, Mustafar said initial findings revealed that the director had several accounts and one of it had RM2.1 million.

He added that the remand of the director had been extended but his wife had been released.

-New Straits Times

Gold bars and bags of cash among items seized from dirty Customs officers

By LESTER KONG and LOURDES CHARLES newsdesk@thestar.com.my

PUTRAJAYA: Gold bars and bags of cash containing up to RM600,000 have been discovered in the homes of several Customs officers during raids by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Other ill-gotten stash included luxury watches and posh cars.

The MACC seized millions of ringgit from at least five of the 62 Customs officers arrested to date in a series of raids over under-declaration of duties and tax evasion.

MACC investigation director Datuk Mustafar Ali said a Customs director arrested last Tuesday had millions of ringgit spread over several bank accounts.

Another officer had almost RM1mil in his bank acount. Two others had between RM500,000 and RM850,000, he told a press conference yesterday.

It is learnt that investigations by a task force estimated that about RM10bil had been smuggled out or remitted overseas.

Last week, the MACC revealed that the raids were carried out as part of investigations into organisations believed to be involved in under-declaration of duties, tax evasion and money laundering.

Yesterday, Mustafar said that several officers had admitted to collecting “fees” ranging from RM100 to RM500 for every Customs declaration K1 form submitted and approved. (K1 forms are meant for imported goods.)

Up to RM10,000 is believed to have been collected for the K1 forms, which contained details of shipments and their dutiable value.

Such crimes, he said, accounted for RM108bil annually in unpaid duties and income tax.

On the MACC raids, Mustafar said: “Our officers found gold bars in the home of one officer.

“Another one had more than RM600,000 in several bags in his house.

“A senior officer had two imitation pistols with more than 200 bullets, besides fireworks and cigarettes,” he said, adding that the raiding team also seized high-end watches and posh cars from the officers concerned.

It is learnt that nine of the 62 arrested to assist in investigations are women.

Those caught are aged between 24 and 56.

Mustafar said investigations were still ongoing and that more people would be picked up.

He hinted that at least 100 forwarding agents were also being investigated for bribery.

To a question, he said the Customs unit based in Port Klang was the most corrupt with 48 officers arrested.

Malaysian gutter politics: sex video, like a blast from the past to end up as Three Stooges?


It’s like a blast from the past
On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai

There is a sense of déjà vu in the sex video case but this time, public expectations seem to have changed.

IT’S now called a sex video and the footage is probably only contained in a thumb drive. But 22 years ago, during the analogue days, they came in the form of the bulky VHS (video home system) tapes.

The visual on tape was often poor and grainy, especially if taken with a hidden camera and in bad lighting. But if they involved political figures, the intrigue and curiosity created would have been no less strong.

There would be the typical open declaration of disgust and anger over such intrusion of privacy but most would want to know more, especially the identities of the people involved.

The controversy over the sex video involving a man resembling Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is like a replay of an old video, or “rewind” as it used to be called.

Twenty-two years ago, DAP’s Karpal Singh walked into the Dewan Rakyat with an expose of a sex video implicating then Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker D.P. Vijandran. The press was tipped off earlier about this tape, which purportedly featured the bachelor politician and a woman in a yellow saree.

Karpal told Parliament then that he was exposing the MIC leader in “public interest” while then Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed regret that the issue had been exploited so much that those allegedly involved were being “persecuted”.

At the height of the issue, this writer received a call from Vijandran who pleaded for the story not to be reported. He also called reporter K.P. Waran at the New Straits Times, hoping for the same thing. But we both told him that it would not be possible.

He then issued a statement criticising the Opposition’s call for the setting up of a Special Tribunal or Royal Commission of Inquiry.

There is certainly a sense of déjà vu among veteran journalists today.

Karpal Singh was regarded as quite a hero for his expose then, and even MIC boss S. Samy Vellu was asked by DAP to resign because of the controversy.

Vijandran, who was then the MIC secretary-general, denied he was the man in the video. In fact, when the issue went to court, he maintained that it was not him.

Political enemies would be blamed but, like most sex videos, they are often the work of people closest to the politician. Blaming the former is often a political reaction.

In Vijandran’s case, he blamed his nephew, S. Ravindran, for using a hidden camera to film him in a compromising situation. In his affidavit, he accused Ravindran of “splicing and superimposing his (Vijandran) image onto the pornographic tape portraying him as an actor”. In short, the tape was doctored. It wasn’t him, he maintained.

Fast forward to the present. No one would claim credit for such gutter politics but the Datuk Trio of Tan Sri Rahim Tamby Chik, Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah and Datuk Shuaib Lazim have unprecedentedly taken responsibility for their action. They are also claiming “public interest” as grounds for doing what they did.

Eskay, a former physiotherapist to Anwar and who is said to be the closest to the Opposition Leader, even signed off a press release as “the insider” and dropped hints that he knew more.

Rahim has rebutted allegations that he had an old political score to settle with Anwar. Not many political analysts, however, are convinced.

Umno leaders have said Rahim has not done the party a favour and they are privately saying he lacks credibility. Many have said they are being blamed for something they had no hand in and that they are nervous over how the drama would end.

In 1998, Umno Youth leader Ruslan Kassim, who was aligned to Anwar, alleged that Rahim was the publisher of the book 50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Be PM.

Rahim retaliated by suing him for RM15mil. The case only ended in 2004 with Ruslan, who had by then joined PKR, making an open apology to the former Malacca Chief Minister.

Old soldiers may fade away but in Malaysia it would appear that old political enemies will stay on to renew their fights. Anwar certainly has plenty of old enemies both inside and outside his party.

The trio has called for foreign experts to verify the identity of the man in the video.

Interestingly, during Vijandran’s trial, Dr Alfred David Linney, a University College of London specialist in planning and assessment of facial reconstruction, said the actor in the tape was a different person.

In fact, the defence witness testified that “if both the men were the same person, then their facial angles will not differ very much”.

Another defence witness, Japanese forensic anthropologist Masatsugu Hashimoto, testified: “It is wrong to state that the two earlobes of the man are the same because at least 14 points of similarities should have been found. In this case, not even a single point of similarity was found.”

Another defence witness, a lawyer, said he viewed the tape for 75 minutes and did not recognise the actor. When asked if he was sure, he replied: “I am positively sure it wasn’t Vijandran.”

The point is: in a court case, the prosecution and defence can always get witnesses, even so-called experts, to testify in support of their case.

In that instance, with the tapes freely available, the public had formed their own conclusion. In the People’s Court, Vijandran was the actor. Forget about the foreign experts.

In 1994, the Sessions Court sentenced him to a month’s jail and a fine of RM2,000 for fabricating evidence and making a false declaration. He took his appeals to the various upper courts and finally in 1998, he was acquitted by the Court of Appeal, which also set aside his conviction and sentence. But his political career was dead and public opinion of him and the tape remains unchanged.

This time around, however, public expectations seemed to have changed. Most Malay­sians do not believe Anwar is the man in the video even though they haven’t seen it. And even if they did, the die-hard Anwar supporters would regard the use of the video as gutter politics.

If the Datuk Trio had thought they could play heroes, they have found out that the psychological battle has become more complicated. Un­like Vijandran’s tape, only 10-odd journalists, some policemen and a few local film experts have seen the video, not 20 million people. The police have said the video is genuine, so the three Datuks had better plan their next steps carefully if they do not want to end up as the Three Stooges.

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