Selangor Journal
(from left to right) Immigration Director-General Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki during the press conference on Op Tropicana, an integrated effort against a multinational investment fraud syndicate, in Putrajaya on February 23, 2023. — Picture by BERNAMA

Op Tropicana: U-turn was the red flag for online syndicate

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 23 — Foreigners who exited and re-entered Malaysia when their social visit pass (PSL) expired, known as u-turns, was what raised suspicions leading to the discovery of a fraudulent online investment syndicate orchestrated by a Briton in this country.

Director-general of Immigration Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud said that as a result of covert intelligence by his task-force in liaison with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), they busted the syndicate with the arrest of 33 individuals including a British national believed to be the mastermind.

They were arrested in raids carried out by a team of officers from the Immigration Intelligence and Special Operations Division and MACC officers at 24 premises and three call centres in the Klang Valley and Penang in the operation dubbed Op Tropicana on Tuesday (February 21).

Immigration detained 23 out of the total of 30 foreigners involving 10 from Indonesia, seven from Britain, and one each from Denmark, Canada, Hungary, Sweden, the Philippines and India for investigation under the Immigration Act 1956/63 and Passport Act 1966.

He said the other 10 individuals, including three local citizens, and the mastermind of the case were detained by MACC for further investigation.

At a press conference with MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki regarding the success of Op Tropicana in dismantling the fraud syndicate here today, Khairul Dzaimee said the u-turns of the syndicate members were first detected in November last year.

“Syndicate members were observed to stay in the country up to the maximum period of PLS granted, then make u-turns frequently, arousing suspicion among Immigration officials at the entry gate, especially at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA),” he said.

The task force began monitoring the members of the syndicate when they were not included in the list of regular visitors who frequently do u-turns as they hail from neighbouring countries.

He said the review found that these foreigners had expertise in investment, social media and information technology, while the local culprits were responsible for providing premises and security services to the syndicate.

“Observation and intensive gathering of information went on for three months. The team had to be cautious because the operating premises of this syndicate were controlled with CCTV (closed circuit cameras) and also electric fences,” Khairul Dzaimee said.

Meanwhile, Azam did not rule out the role of local enforcement agencies that shielded the syndicate.

“We believe there were enforcement agencies bribed based on evidence, and do not rule out the possibility that these authorities were involved in protecting their activities,” he said.

According to Azam, cooperation with the (UK) National Crime Agency also revealed that the detained foreigners had criminal records related to fraud and are listed as wanted persons.

Media reports said the syndicate is believed to have targeted Australian and UK citizens by tricking them into making non-existent investments and managed to profit as much as RM200 million and is believed to have been operating in this country since 2019.

— Bernama


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