Former Myanmar refugee and business partner make million from trafficking
Cast adrift: Rohingya migrants (front from left) Muhammad Rubail, 14, Hasyik, 20, Najibul Hasan, 15, and Yusuf, 22, on a boat that drifted in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea. They were later rescued along with others by fishermen in Indonesian waters and are now at a confinement camp in Aceh.
KUALA LUMPUR: To society, he is seen as a philanthropist, often helping his less fortunate countrymen. But what is not known is that this former Myanmar refugee and his Malaysian business partner make millions from the misery of those they traffick.
They have been linked to the trafficking of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis into this country along the Malaysia-Thai border.
The authorities are closing down on the two men, aged between their late 40s and 50s, who could be arrested under preventive detention laws soon, according to sources.
The two are said to be prominent figures in George Town and are known for their flamboyant lifestyles. The philanthropist from Kepala Batas set up base here two decades ago and is involved in issuing fake MyKad and UNHCR refugee documents to Rohingyas who entered the country illegally.
He has permanent resident status, is well-connected to local politicians and uses philanthropy to mask his illegal activities by donating generously to religious bodies and NGOs in Penang.
"We are working on how these two set up links with an international human trafficking syndicate," said a source. He added that armed assailants working for the traffickers posed as military personnel to avoid detection by military staff patrolling the border.
The noose closed on the traffickers two years ago after the authorities obtained information from local "tontos" who were the hired hands and from illegal immigrants in detention, said the sources.
They said the philanthropist and businessman used to hire locals to smuggle diesel, rice and other items into and out of Thailand.
They later moved on to human trafficking because the returns were better, especially since the pick-up points along the border were manned by Thai syndicate members linked to them.
One pick-up point was two and a half hours' walk from the campsites where the mass graves were discovered in Bukit Burma and another was two days' walk to Padang Besar through a sugarcane plantation.
The sources said the illegal Rohingyas and Bangladeshis were forced to pay a fee of RM7,000 (S$2,580) each to armed Thais of the international syndicate when they arrived at the border. Those who failed to do so were killed or left behind to starve.
The "ransom" was paid as follows:
> The Thais keep between RM1,000 and RM1,500 per head and pass on the balance to Malaysians linked to the George Town businessman.
> Tontos hired by the businessman to transport the illegals to Penang and Sungai Petani get RM100 per immigrant banked directly into their accounts after they have dropped off the victims.
> Some of the balance money is used to bribe enforcement authorities and the rest go the masterminds.