Hundreds of Chinese nationals arrested in Malaysia last month for alleged involvement in an online scam have pleaded guilty to immigration offenses and are serving prison sentences, while others will be deported back to China, according to Malaysian officials.
Malaysian immigration police arrested close to 700 Chinese citizens during a Nov. 20 raid in the cyber-tech town of Cyberjaya, near Kuala Lumpur, in connection with an investigation into a syndicate that allegedly targeted people in China through an online investment fraud, authorities said. Except for a Bangladeshi man who was also arrested in that raid, all the other suspects have been identified as citizens of China.
On Friday and Monday, the Sepang Sessions Court in Selangor state charged more than 500 of the arrestees for alleged violations of Malaysia’s immigration laws, including entering the country without valid papers or staying on after their entry permits had expired.
On Dec. 13, the court sentenced 290 of the suspects to four months in prison after they pleaded guilty to immigration-related offenses, and ordered 31 others to pay fines.
On Monday, the court ordered that at least another 150 Chinese nationals who were arrested in the Nov. 20 raid be deported home after they also pleaded guilty to immigration violations, immigration department and court officials said.
“All of them, including the Bangladeshi, paid their fines after the court proceedings and as [part of] our procedures, they will be deported home,” attorney V. Kasthuri Bai, the head of the prosecution team in the case, told BenarNews, referring to Monday’s hearing in Sepang.
Meanwhile, due to a lack of evidence, scores of other Chinese suspects who were picked up in the Cyberjaya raid will not be brought to court to be charged but will be deported, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the case who declined to be quoted by name, saying they were not authorized to speak about those suspects. The sources did not explain on what legal grounds the remaining suspects could be expelled.
The more than 150 suspects who were brought to court in Sepang on Monday were divided into six batches, which appeared one by one before Judge Tengku Shahrizam Tuan Lah. The entire session lasted around 90 minutes.
Last month, a source in the Immigration Department of Malaysia said the hundreds of Chinese suspects arrested in Cyberjaya had received around U.S. $600 in monthly wages. If they secured an investment from any person targeted in the investment scam, they each would get a commission of U.S. $1,670, the source said.
“They were arrested for alleged participation in criminal activities like this and also for violations of their social visit passes,” said the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The source was referring to short-term social media passes, a type of visa issued to Chinese nationals arriving at Malaysia’s ports of entry.
Prior to November’s mass raid in Cyberjaya, Malaysian authorities in recent months had carried out arrests of Chinese nationals suspected of being involved in criminal activities.
In late August, police here arrested 100 Chinese suspects who were allegedly part of an illegal online gaming syndicate that targeted gamblers in China.
On Monday, the director of the Royal Malaysia Police’s Criminal Investigation Department told a news conference in Selangor that his unit had arrested more than 2,600 Chinese nationals since last December for alleged involvement in illegal gaming and gambling, which are banned in China.
“They were arrested during raids conducted nationwide. Some of them we have deported home, while some are being processed at the immigration detention center while waiting for deportation,” CID head Huzir Mohamed told reporters.