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Up to law enforcement agencies to name politicians backing syndicates, says minister

CNA – Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said on Sunday that it is up to the police and the country’s anti-graft agency to decide whether the names of politicians involved in illegal online gambling syndicates should be revealed.

According to the New Straits Times (NST), Saifuddin noted that the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) have “very comprehensive data information” on the masterminds and the people behind the syndicates.

“That was how they managed to establish the element of political patronage. As mentioned by MACC and the Inspector General of Police, there is a need for both law enforcement agencies to exchange information.

“I leave it to them to decide based on their professional evaluation (whether to disclose the identities of the politicians involved),” he was quoted by NST as telling reporters after attending a Home Ministry programme.

Saifuddin also reportedly said that the online gambling syndicates keep their profits in the form of cryptocurrency.

Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail during a press conference. PHOTO: BERNAMA

“I recently disclosed that almost 100 websites operating online involve gambling activities.

“Based on the size, the volume is enormous and they (the syndicates) are keeping their profits in the form of cryptocurrency.

“They are very advanced,” he said.

According to Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Saifuddin said that the syndicates are earning up to MYR250 million (USD54 million) per week. He urged the police to be a “few steps ahead” with their data analytics on these syndicates.

On Saturday, MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki said that the agency received information on claims of political protection or patronage in illegal online gambling activities, according to The Star.

He added that the MACC will cooperate with the police in its investigations.

Saifuddin had earlier told Parliament on Thursday that online gambling syndicates are backed by political patrons which poses a “major obstacle for the Home Ministry, police and the government”.

According to FMT, he explained that “political masters” would protect syndicates from legal action and the syndicates would then “reciprocate”. However, he did not elaborate on what the reciprocation entails.

Saifuddin was responding to a question by Sungai Buloh Member of Parliament R Ramanan on whether political patronage exists in the illegal online gambling industry.

In February, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission reportedly said it had blocked 6,381 online gambling websites from 2020 to the end of 2022.