: A human trafficking syndicate, spearheaded by a Bangladeshi businessman with alleged political connections with the Home Ministry, raked in at least RM2bil in just two years from Bangladeshi workers looking to land jobs in Malaysia.
An investigation revealed that the workers paid RM20,000 each to their local agents who then paid half of the sum to the syndicate to facilitate work permit approvals and flight tickets to Malaysia.
It is learned that since late 2016, more than 100,000 Bangladeshi workers have been brought into the country under the system, while more than 100,000 are waiting for their turn.
Our investigation also revealed that the businessman, who even has a “Datuk Seri” title, was the mastermind behind the organised and “legalised” multibillion-ringgit human trafficking scam.
Due to his strong political influence in both Malaysia Bangladesh, the businessman was also instrumental in getting the two countries to sign a government-to-government agreement in 2016, giving only 10 companies from Bangladesh the right to recruit migrant workers for Malaysia.
The agreement ultimately sidelined about 1,500 recruitment agents in Bangladesh.
Furthermore, according to a source, some of the 10 authorised agents were merely fly-by-night companies created solely to rake in money by playing middleman between the workers and their prospective employers in Malaysia.
Despite the hefty RM20,000 price tag, the whole process – from documentation and transporting these workers to Malaysia – cost the agents less than RM2,000 a person.
“The ‘Datuk Seri’ has grown richer, his close aides and business associates living lavishly,” said the source.
“The Datuk Seri also shares a portion of the money he makes with politicians and government staff from both countries,” he said, adding that the man, who is in his late 40s, was married to a Malaysian for more than 15 years.
The source said the “Datuk Seri” even went a step further to grease what he described as a “well-oiled money-making scheme to exploit Bangladeshi workers”.
To facilitate the smooth operation of the system and to secure the interest of the 10 companies, he also set up a new online registration system called Sistem Perkhidmatan Pekerja Asing (SPPA), the only one that can be used to hire Bangladeshi workers.
Prior to the introduction of SPPA, Bangladesh was merely one of several source countries including Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Myanmar that supplied a migrant workforce to Malaysia.
“Employers are required to pay RM305 for each worker hired from Bangladesh under SPPA, which is operated by a private company called Bestinet Sdn Bhd.
“The money collected under SPPA goes to Bestinet as a service charge for the distribution of the workers to their employers via the 10 companies,” said the source.
Migrant workers from the other source countries only needed to pay some RM2,500 to be hired in Malaysia, he added.
Bestinet was also the company that developed the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS), used by the Immigration Department for foreign workers’ visa applications.
Prior to the introduction of SPPA, the cost of hiring Bangladeshi workers was much lower, said Chirara Kannan, owner of a consultancy service for several employers in the Klang Valley.
“In the past, the workers only paid between RM7,000 and RM8,000 each,” he said.
However, Bangladeshi workers now had to pay off a legion of middlemen.
Chirara said workers paid the RM20,000 to “sub agents” from their villages, who then had to go through at least two more middlemen before they got connected to the local agents appointed by the Bangladesh government.
Previous licensed recruitment agents had now became “sub agents” for the big 10 companies, he added.
“It has gone from bad to worse as some employers even solicit commissions from the agents after realising that the workers were paying an exorbitant amount of money to work in Malaysia.
“Some of the employers receive up to RM1,500 in commissions for each Bangladeshi worker they hire,” said Chirara, adding that the reputation of the migrant worker recruitment industry had been “severely tarnished”.