Malaysia is stepping up its efforts to stamp out illegal gambling, but first it must purge its police force of the corrupt officers that facilitate it.
Gambling is largely illegal in the predominantly Muslim country, apart from the national lottery and a limited amount of on-track horse race betting, while casino gaming is restricted to one, albeit stunning casino resort, Resorts World Genting, operated by the titular homegrown casino giant.
Malaysian police are prone to enthusiastically announcing gambling crackdowns, albeit with little apparent impact, but this one appears to be different.
In preparation for the new initiative, the Malay Online reports that “dozens” of senior police officers, from divisions including anti-vice and anti-gambling, have been cleared out on the suspicion of protecting syndicates operating illegal gambling and prostitution.
Among them are officers with the rank of assistant superintendent (the second highest rank within each of the country’s 19 regional police battalions), as well as members of the elite Special Task for Anti-Vice, Gambling and Gangsterism (STAGG).
New Anti-Gambling Action Committee
Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor told reporters that an action committee had been formed, incorporating various government and law enforcement agencies, which will begin carrying out raids against known underground gambling dens from this weekend.
The committee has been granted powers to “plan, analyze, synergize and execute the actions to be taken to completely wipe out illegal gambling once and for all,” he said.
Noor warned that anyone in league with gambling syndicates will be rounded up and charged to ensure their activities are wiped out for good. He acknowledged, too, that there had been historic weaknesses in building up strong cases against suspects, which had resulted in them escaping full punishment and resuming their operations.
“There has been continuous public outcry and this time we’re determined to see this through,” he said. “We want to eliminate this menace for good,”
Online Gambling a Tougher Target
Illegal online gambling will also be targeted in Malaysia, although Noor said that this was a tougher proposition because police had limited technology and personnel to gather evidence.
“Shutting down online gambling is complicated as they mostly operate through servers located overseas,” he said. “They mask their software through local servers to avoid being detected by authorities.
The new task force, however, will benefit from the input of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, as well as local internet service providers, while officers will undergo special training to enhance their digital knowledge.
The committee will also have the power to review laws and scrutinise cases inform to future legislation, Noor said.