NST 11 September 2012
By FARRAH NAZ KARIM AND ALANG BENDAHARA
KAMUNTING: TONY, who was arrested on Sept 9, 2009, had been smuggling Sri Lankans to Christmas Island, Australia, and had amassed a fortune of more than RM130 million.
Several Kamunting detention camp detainees the New Straits Times spoke to shed light on the intricate dealings with syndicate snakeheads and crime bosses to ensure their operations were foolproof.
So well-organised and strong were their networking that they had associates to handle all aspects of their operations, including the falsification and forgery of documents, passports and work permits.
The NST learnt that these syndicates favoured travel documents from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and countries in western Europe.
It was revealed that the people they brought into Malaysia were more than those looking for greener pastures in a foreign land. Some included those being hunted by their respective governments for their involvement in militant activities.
These included Jemaah Islamiyah members in Sabah as well as the Hazaras, who fought the Taliban, as well as other militant groups from the Middle East.
The fee for safe passage was anywhere between US$15,000 (RM46,500) and US$25,000 each.
Intelligence sources told the NST that these individuals were smuggled in with the help of wayward Immigration officers.
There were the odd gangster or two, as well as lieutenants and commanders of militant groups, who would later be assimilated into local communities and who would set up their own communities.
One detainee was a lieutenant-colonel with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which fought a separatist battle in Sri Lanka.
"When these people were smuggled in, they also brought in weapons and drugs.
"Some of these militants were also looking for ways to strengthen their links and this could, in a way, challenge Malaysia's sovereignty.
"The money involved is mind-boggling.
"A financial officer for one of the syndicates, when arrested, had more than RM300,000 in the trunk of her car. Let's not even talk about the cash found under her bed," a detained human smuggler said, adding that it would have been impossible to nab the smugglers' snakeheads with open laws.
Another syndicate chief, also in the Kamunting camp, was reaping in so much profit that he bought a cargo ship to expand his business for RM850,000 in cash.
These detainees also told of the violent and sometimes brutal tactics they used to maintain control and protect their turf and reputation.
One particular detainee, his skin hardened and scorched by the incessant beating of the sun and the elements, related his experience after being put at the helm of a boat ferrying migrants to Christmas Island through Indonesia.
After a storm sank his vessel with 120 boat people off the coast of Sumatra, his syndicate's Indonesian network came to the rescue.
Twenty of them refused to get on board the replacement boat and wanted out.
This infuriated his boss who feared that word might spread about his less-than reliable service.
"The 20 were taken ashore, confined and beaten into changing their minds."