The boiler room laundered billions of dollars through Hong Kong banks and went undetected for 15 years. After a long investigation and close cooperation with Malaysia’s MACC, millions of dollars were recovered for victims using the powers of the Anti-Money Laundering unit of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which participated in the operation. 

MACC, with the cooperation of other agencies, busted an investment scam masterminded by British nationals with the arrest of 81 suspects in 24 raids. A 41-year-old British web designer was detained at KL International Airport 2 by the task force on Feb 28, he was in transit from Cambodia to the United Kingdom. Several banks, money changers and company registrar offices here have been raided by graft busters for alleged links to an international scam syndicate. The operation also led to the arrest and questioning of the boiler room staff and 20 bank employees for allegedly turning a blind eye to suspicious transactions.

Codenamed Op Tropicana, the raids – led by Mohamad Zamri – were carried out simultaneously at, among others, call centres, various companies and homes in the Klang Valley and Penang. The syndicate, which started in 2019, has amassed almost RM200mil after duping victims in Australia and the United Kingdom.

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki had said the syndicate, whose members are from Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa and the Philippines, had offered fake investment portfolios through advertisements on social media. It is believed the syndicate was part of an international scam ring that has duped victims across the globe, causing RM1bil in losses.

Covert observations and the reveal of observed travel habits broke the silent circle

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. As a result of covert intelligence by his task-force in liaison with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Director-general of Immigration Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud and his team busted the syndicate with the arrest of 33 individuals including the said 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. 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.

Syndicate members were observed to stay in the country up to the maximum period of PLS granted, then make u-turns frequently. After contacting immigration about those travels,  suspicion arose among Immigration officials at the entry gate, especially at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

A joint 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 neighboring countries.

Khairul Dzaimee 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 operation premises of this syndicate were controlled with CCTV (closed circuit cameras) and also electric fences. 

Meanwhile, the joint team did not rule out the role of local enforcement agencies that shielded the syndicate. Still under investigation is the possibility, that there were enforcement agencies bribed based on evidence, and nobody is ruling out the possibility that these authorities were involved in protecting their activities.

The close 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.