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KOTA KINABALU, Feb 27 — Paul Phua, the controversial gambling kingpin on trial in the US with alleged links to Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has reportedly taken up citizenship in Montenegro—which according to Malaysian law, means he is no longer Malaysian.
A recent report published in the Centre for Investigative Reporting Montenegro alleged that the millionaire was doing business with some of Montenegro’s elite, and was personally recommended for citizenship by its Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.
Montenegro is a southeastern European country bordering Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.
“(He was) a person “of special importance for the state, scientific, economic, economic and other interests of Montenegro”, the senior member of the triad has received Montenegrin citizenship.
“It (citizenship) happened in the period from October 2013 to October 2014, at the personal suggestion of Montenegrin Prime Minister,” said the report, published in Serbian on February 7.
Malaysia’s Federal Constitution does not recognise dual nationalities for its citizens; those who do obtain the citizenship of another country will be stripped of his Malaysian citizenship.
News portal Malaysiakini previously reported Phua, 50, was born in Miri, Sarawak though he was nicknamed “Sabah kia”.
According to the report, Phua was an unofficial envoy of San Marino, a republic near Italy, in 2011 based in Montenegro where he had some business dealings.
However, news portal Malaysiakini reported San Marino revoked Phua’s non-resident diplomatic passport on July 16 last year after he was arrested by US officials for suspected illegal gambling.
Last month, a letter from Ahmad Zahid surfaced at the trial of Phua, a former Macau junket operator, who is facing illegal gambling charges in the US for taking bets during the World Cup last summer.
Zahid’s letter to the FBI dated December 18, 2014, was reportedly withdrawn as evidence in Phua’s illegal gambling trial in Las Vegas after Putrajaya objected to it being made public.
In the letter signed by the home minister, it clearly states that based on the ministry’s information, Phua is neither a member nor associated with the 14K Triad.
The letter also stated that according to its records, Phua has on numerous occasions assisted the Malaysian government on projects affecting the country’s national security.
Zahid defended his decision to write a letter to the FBI clarifying Phua’s alleged involvement with the 14K triad, saying it was done within his powers as the home minister.
He also said he could not reveal why he wrote that Phua was assisting Putrajaya on security matters, adding that the letter was written following a request by the firm representing Phua here, Shafee & Co
US authorities have alleged that Paul is part of the 14K triad, which has been described as a fearsome Hong Kong-based triad with international reach.
Both Phua and his son Darren were charged in a Las Vegas court on August 5 last year and both are now freed after posting bail totalling US$2.5 million (RM7.97 million).