A Malaysian court on Thursday charged six men, including a deputy director of the National Registration Department, accusing them of being part of a syndicate that falsified identity cards and sold counterfeit documents to Chinese nationals.
The suspects were among 21 people taken into custody in August after police arrested a Chinese woman in Penang four months ago, according to a news release from Federal Police Headquarters.
Two sessions courts in Penang state separately ordered the detention of Mohd Faizul Arifin, a deputy director of the National Registration Department (NRD), businessman Lai Chin Wah; Mohd Faizal Tan Abdullah; Tan’s son-in-law Chien Guan Chai; Loh Chan Cheong; and Yap Cheng Wah, court documents show.
The six, who were arrested last month, are to appear in court again on Sept. 18, officials said. They are being held under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA), which allows suspects to be detained up to 28 days without charges, court officials said.
Authorities were conducting an internal investigation, the NRD said in a statement.
“NRD will not protect any officers or staff that were found to be involved in the activities that may affect the security and the country’s sovereignty,” it said.
The six were charged under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act of 2007. If convicted, they could each face prison sentences of up to 15 years and fines of not less than 50,000 ringgit (U.S. $12,000), or both, according to state news agency Bernama.
The Chinese woman arrested in connection with the case was taken into custody in May.
“The woman possessed Malaysia’s identification card but could not speak Malay and failed the tests carried out at the Penang Immigration Department,” the release from police headquarters said.
The woman pleaded guilty to all charges, police said without giving more details.
An investigation determined that forged identification cards and birth certificates had been issued to non-Malaysians, including Chinese nationals, between January and May this year at the office of the state National Registration Office in Penang and in Georgetown, the state’s capital, it said.
The six suspects who appeared in court on Thursday were among 20 people between the ages of 32 and 70 who were arrested during a series of raids on Aug. 19, police said.
Officers seized 38 cellphones, laptops, dozens of passports and identification cards, forged documents, six vehicles and more than 38,000 ringgit ($9,202) during the raid, authorities said.