A well-oiled drug machine

NGO patron among 10 held as cops bust syndicate

KUALA LUMPUR: A 40-year-old patron of a non-governmental organisation, with a Datuk title, has been detained for allegedly leading a major drug syndicate from Sabah.

Among the nine others held along with him included a restaurant chain’s 45-year-old managing director, who is said to be the one handling the syndicate’s finances.

The NGO founder is believed to have been running the Sabah-based drug trafficking ring for over eight years.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said the mastermind and others were detained by the Narcotic Crime Investigation Department and the Eastern Sabah Security Command in a special operation in Kota Kinabalu, Tawau and Semporna at about 2.30am on Christmas Day.

“He is also a businessman who channelled proceeds from drug trafficking into various businesses,” he told a press conference in Bukit Aman yesterday.

The suspect, he added, was previously detained under Section 3(1) of the Dangerous Drugs Act Special Preventive Measures.

The others detained were a 38-year-old trader, a 48-year-old personal assistant, a 44-year-old enforcement agency staff member who was the syndicate’s transporter, a drug mule aged 34, a 32-year-old site supervisor, two drug pushers, and a “Tonto”, 48, who monitors the drug activity.

Investigations showed that the syndicate had been active since 2015, said Ayob Khan.

“We believe it is the biggest drug syndicate in Sabah with a local and overseas network.

Christmas Day bust: Ayob Khan (centre) speaking to reporters as NCID director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Kamarudin Md Din (left) and another officer look on in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur. — LOW LAY PHON/The StarChristmas Day bust: Ayob Khan (centre) speaking to reporters as NCID director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Kamarudin Md Din (left) and another officer look on in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star

“They got their supply of syabu from a neighbouring country before being smuggled into Sabah via flights through drug mules and cargo ships.

“Besides Sabah, they also trafficked drugs in the Philippines and Indonesia,” he added.

The syndicate owns 12 businesses including those in tourism, construction, petrochemical as well as oil and gas, he said.

“It also has a ferry and a chain of restaurants.

“The syndicate leader became an NGO patron to mask his illegal activities.

“We also detected various bungalows and luxury vehicles owned by the syndicate,” said Ayob Khan.

He added that all 10 were detained under Section 130V of the Penal Code (Organised Crime) and the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or Sosma.

The group is also being probed under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act and for its alleged involvement in smuggling contraband and subsidised items to Indonesia and the Philippines, he said.

The Deputy IGP said investigation on the syndicate’s network was ongoing.

“We also aim to seize proceeds from the illegal activity,” he said.

Ayob Khan said the police would not let up on their war on drugs, which has been going on for 40 years yet drugs remain the nation’s No. 1 enemy.

“Despite various arrests and seizures, certain laws have been seen as less effective. It is hard to nab syndicate leaders or masterminds as they are not directly involved in the drug activities.

“That is why we are now using Section 130V of the Penal Code and Sosma to ensure syndicates are busted totally,” he said.

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