In arming illegal guards for cheaper security, an insidious price

Shaheen says that the private security industry has now grown to providing cash-in-transit services for clients like banks and retailers and that security companies move about RM2 billion a day. — Pictures by Saw Siow Feng
Shaheen says that the private security industry has now grown to providing cash-in-transit services for clients like banks and retailers and that security companies move about RM2 billion a day. — Pictures by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — Many neighbourhoods, businesses and even banks hire illegal and sometimes armed security guards as they cost less than legitimate ones in a cutthroat private security industry, but recent cases of such guards turning rogue reveal what may be the true cost of the decision.

Because of the RM900 minimum wage policy gazetted last year, security guards must be paid at least RM2,200 monthly with overtime, EPF and Socso contributions, forcing security firms to charge clients at least RM3,000 to earn a gross profit of RM800, according to the Security Services Association of Malaysia (SSAM).

But between 30 and 40 security firms, out of the 751 licensed companies, undercut their competition by hiring foreigners at RM1,200 a month and by charging clients about RM2,200 ― RM800 less than their counterparts who follow the minimum wage policy.

“They want to make a quick profit,” SSAM president Datuk Shaheen Mirza Habib told The Malay Mail Online in a recent interview.

“A disaster is waiting for those who hire illegals... Hire a legal company and pay more because it’s for your own safety. You may feel safe, but you’re not. They’re waiting for an opportunity to strike,” Shaheen warned Malaysians.

There are a whopping 150,000 security guards in Malaysia, even more than the police force with its 112,583 officers, according to Shaheen.

Of that number, about 20 per cent, or 30,000 guards, are illegal, some of whom could be criminals given guns by employers who do not run background checks or vet them online through the Home Ministry.

“These foreigners — we don’t know who they are. They could be rapists, murderers running from their countries,” said Shaheen.

Only locals and Nepali ex-servicemen are allowed to work as security guards in Malaysia.

But the recent case of a security guard who shot a bank officer in the face when he robbed an AmBank branch he was protecting in Subang Jaya of RM450,000 has revealed loopholes in the private security industry that is fuelled by a fear of rising crime and a lack of confidence in the police force. Police investigations later

revealed that the guard was hired using a fake MyKad and is suspected to be Indonesian.

Shortly after the AmBank murder-cum-robbery last month, two other robberies involving security guards have occurred.

A Filipino security guard has been arrested by the police for robbing a jewellery store that he was working for in Setapak here, while in a separate case, two Nepali security guards were nabbed last week for stealing smartphones and tablets from their employer’s shop in Sunway Pyramid.

The guard in the AmBank robbery was also arrested in Johor Baru yesterday morning.

The security companies interviewed by The Malay Mail Online recently were mystified at how the AmBank security guard obtained his carry-and-use firearm permit — needed for the holder to use a gun during duty, but not to own it — despite holding a fake MyKad.

Shaheen said that after a security guard has been vetted by the Home Ministry and sent for a four-day basic training course, his company, Securiforce Sdn Bhd, would apply for a firearm licence for guards only after they have worked for at least six months.

The police will conduct another round of vetting on applicants to check if they have a criminal record and to see if they are associated with secret societies. The carry-and-use firearm licence will only be given between three and six months after the application.

“The company also has to renew the licence on a yearly basis. The police will see their capabilities at the shooting range when they renew their licence,” said Shaheen, adding that Securiforce provides firearms training for armed guards.

An official with a security firm based in Negri Sembilan, who did not want to be named, said that the police will usually conduct face-to-face interviews with firearm licence applicants and question them on their knowledge of guns and on their training.

“We’ve never come across instances where applications for a firearm licence are obtained so easily,” he told The Malay Mail Online recently.

“Getting carry-and-use licences for our personnel was never that easy. It’s the same before as it is now,” added the security official.

He also lamented the illegal hiring of foreigners like Indonesians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Nepalis, Filipinos and Burmese as security guards.

“Clients are not willing to pay a high price, as demanded by serious players and legal players. They’ll under-price it. They resort to foreigners who are not subject to any local laws,” he said.

A guard at a housing area in Puchong checks a car. There are 30,000 illegal security guards in the country who work at condominiums, business premises and even banks.
A guard at a housing area in Puchong checks a car. There are 30,000 illegal security guards in the country who work at condominiums, business premises and even banks.

Datuk Rahmat Ismail, executive chairman of SRT-EON Security Services Sdn Bhd, said that some companies still hire illegal security guards, despite the ongoing clampdown by the authorities.

“Yesterday, I met one company that still employs Indonesians in a supermarket. People are still very daring. They don’t care about the authorities,” Rahmat told The Malay Mail Online in a recent phone interview.

He added that some unscrupulous security firms sub-contract their licenses to franchises.

“In the AmBank case, if there were another unarmed guard, this case wouldn’t have happened. If he wanted to commit it also, the other guard would be looking at him. (But) he was on his own. The rest of the staff were all ladies. Sometimes, banks want to cut cost,” said Rahmat.

“The problem that security firms face is that we get a contract for two years, three years. But if we lose the contract, what are we going to do with them? They’re not like policemen who can just transfer to another police station. If we lose the contract, that’s it. No work,” he added, explaining why security guards tend to job hop.

Shaheen said that the private security industry has grown from 60 companies in SSAM when it was registered in 1980, to 350 companies in the 1990s; now, it has doubled to 751 companies.

Security firms are required to have a paid-up capital of RM300,000 and 30 per cent of its shares must be held by a former police officer with the rank of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SAC) II or by a former military colonel.

Beyond guards, the private security industry has now expanded into providing cash-in-transit (CIT) services, in which firms transport huge amounts of cash in bulletproof vehicles manned by armed guards to secure vaults for their clients, such as banks, retail outlets, shopping malls, hospitals and government agencies, among others.

Shaheen said that the 40 security firms in the country that provide CIT services could easily move RM2 billion a day.

“We do circulation of cash in the market. If the money doesn’t move, there would be a panic and a run on the banks. We are the life-support of the economy,” he said.

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