Time for registration of foreigners — Norman Fernandez

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DECEMBER 28 — According to the Malaysian Federal Commercial Investigation Department, the police had recorded 5,218 Macau Scam cases from January to October 2020 with Malaysians suffering losses amounting to RM256 million. Further, this year, some 4,865 Investigation Papers on the Macau Scam have been opened by the Commercial Crime Investigation Department of the Royal Malaysian Police.

Macau Scam is a telecommunication fraud originating from syndicates in Taiwan and China where the perpetrators often using local and international telephone lines including Voice Over Internet Protocols, trick victims into transferring huge sums of money.

These Macau Scammers, have found Malaysia to be a very conducive place to operate their crime and many syndicates have moved their operations here. One such syndicate (until busted) had been operating in Putrajaya for more than six months, renting an entire sixth floor with a RM360,000 monthly rental. In the police raid, in just that premises, police arrested 680 China nationals, who had entered the country on social visit passes and most had overstayed.

Today, the Macau Scammers are playing cat & mouse with the police and immigration and are very nimble in their operations. They are often moving from one place to another and to operate under the radar, they have even extended their operations to other states, including East Malaysia and secondary cities. In September, 43 individuals including 39 China nationals were arrested in the sleepy town of Kluang, Johor. The syndicate had been operating in Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru had moved their activity to Kluang and was operating from a once prominent hotel which had fallen into hard-times.

Today, the Macau scammers operate with ease and convenience out of rented hotels, offices, houses, apartments and condominiums. The property owners hardly do any back-ground checks and are very happy with the foreigner-tenants who are willing to pay higher rent and often for the entire period of the tenancy. No one knows of these residents in the neighbourhood, who usually keep a very low profile. The police (including the neighbourhood police) and other authorities have no inkling that a Macau Scam syndicate is operating right under their watch.

Unlike other countries, where property owners have to register the details of any foreigner staying or renting their property with the local police station and other authorities, Malaysia it would seem has no such provision. This works to the convenience and advantage of foreigners whose presence here is to conduct criminal and nefarious activities. This is one reason, why places like Johor are flooded with foreigners carrying out all sorts of criminal and unlawful activities.

Thus, with the influx of foreigners and especially China nationals (not to mention African “students”) already in Malaysia, and are coming in, it is time the government urgently consider enacting a Registration of Foreigners Act or any law, where property owners are required to register the details of foreigners residing or renting their property. Even the Local Councils can enact a By-Law on the same.

Then, the onus on ensuring that no crime or unlawful activity is carried out in the property should be the responsibility of the property owner who should face the consequences of the forfeiture of their property should they allow their property to be misused.

The Registration of Foreigners would enable the neighbourhood police (and the Local Councils) to keep watch and easily identify the foreigners (and their activities) in their midst.

Of course, the vetting of foreigners at first instance, particularly from certain countries and ensuring that they are genuine tourists and visitors, should be the responsibility of the immigration officers and the weeding out of corrupt and crooked immigration officers, the responsibility of the government, the Immigration, MACC and the police.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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