KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — A bypass function in the Immigration Department’s system for passport issuance remains exploited by corrupt officials and syndicates that offer Malaysian passports for sale.
The Straits Times reported that the scam, which was uncovered in 2016, had allowed genuine Malaysian passports to be illegally bought for the price of US$10,000 (RM41,959) to US$60,000.
Details of the investigation were made known to the Singaporean-based portal recently.
All an officer has to do is input the fake passport applicant’s details and click a button that allows him to bypass a verification process by the National Registration Department that requires a Malaysian identity document.
“Verifying an identity with NRD's myIDENTITY at the counter would usually take a while. But that 'problem' can be easily fixed by just pressing that specific key ― it would skip the verification part and go straight to MyIMMs database, where made-up particulars of their clients are stored with their biometric information,” the report quoted a source saying.
The bypass was put in place to speed up passport applications and renewals, which can sometimes take less than an hour in an emergency.
In 2016, 15 immigration officers were sacked, 14 suspended and eight others had their salary increments frozen when they were found to be involved in sabotaging the system ― called MyIMMs ― and selling passports to syndicates who sell them to fugitives and militants for a profit of billions of ringgit.
The report said that other clients were wealthy Chinese nationals who wanted passports with different nationalities to allow their children to study in international schools in China.
Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud announced in July that it was developing an Integrated Immigration System to replace MyIMMs, but the MyIMMs would still be used until then, albeit with some improvements.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told a US-Malaysia forum in Washington this week that Putrajaya is working on a new immigration system to collect both advance passenger information and the names of passengers to prevent foreign terrorists from travelling through Malaysia.
Malaysian passports are ranked as the 13th most powerful passport in the world, having access to more than 179 countries visa-free or with visa on arrival.