PUTRAJAYA, Nov 6 — Twenty-two individuals including civil servants and Vietnamese nationals have been arrested during Op Armada, an operation against illegal fishing syndicate and encroachment by Vietnamese fishermen into Malaysian waters, which also saw the seizure of cash totalling RM1.9 million believed to be corrupt money.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad said nine of the individuals were picked up in Pahang, three in Terengganu, five in Sabah, four in Sarawak and one in Labuan.
He said they comprised six civil servants, five of whom were Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) personnel and one from the Fisheries Department; nine local boat operators and middlemen; and seven Vietnamese nationals including two women, one of whom has the title ‘Datuk'.
“We believe that the syndicate has been active since end of last year by paying RM50,000 to RM100,000 for each local fisherman’s permit,” he told a press conference, which was also attended by MMEA director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifili Abu Bakar.
Dzulkifli said under the Op Armada, 44 bank accounts worth RM2 million had also been frozen.
Dzulkifli said the operation, which began in January this year, had also identified four jetties in Vietnam which were mostly used by fishermen from the country to encroach into Malaysian waters.
He said owners of Vietnamese fishing boats detained by the MMEA would used the service of local middlemen to ‘negotiate’ with the authority so that they could be released and resume their illegal fishing activity.
It is believed that the MMEA personnel involved had received bribe of between RM50,000 and RM200,000 for the release of each boat, he said.
Dzulkifli said the female suspect with the title Datuk, aged 41, was believed to be the mastermind for the syndicate and was picked up in Pahang.
“She is married to a local man but does not possess a permanent resident card and has worked as a court interpreter in Terengganu,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zulkifli said the encroachment by Vietnamese fishermen mainly took place in Sedili, Johor; Tok Bali, Kelantan; Kuching, Bintulu and Miri in Sarawak; Labuan; and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
“The MMEA will not compromise with any quarters, especially its own personnel, in its bid to combat abuse of power and exploitation of the national marine resources,” he said.
For the record, a total of 1,063 foreign fishing boats with 8.898 crew members, including from Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, had been detained between 2006 and Nov 3 this year. — Bernama