Malaysia has suspended the only system used to hire Bangladeshi workers after allegations surfaced that a Bangladeshi businessman with prestigious ‘Datuk Seri’ title was using it to make billions of ringgit by smuggling his countrymen.
A syndicate spearheaded by the Bangladeshi businessman made 2 billion ringgit by smuggling over 100,000 workers in only two years, Malaysian newspaper The Star said in a report on Friday.
Malaysia halted the system along with the 10 companies, which are part of the syndicate, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran later told The Star.
The suspension will last until a full investigation has been completed into allegations that the syndicate was operating the system as a human trafficking scheme to exploit the workers, according to Kulasegaran.
Until then, Malaysia would go back to the old system so that the application process could be managed by the government, he added.
“The previous administration managed the whole recruitment process like a business aimed at benefiting certain individuals,” Kulasegaran alleged, describing the whole process “a total mess”, according to The Star.
He also said discussions were ongoing at various levels on the matter.
“I believe we will be able to find a solution soon,” The Star qupoted him as saying.
Zahangir Alam, a spokesman for the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment in Bangladesh, told bdnews24.com that they send workers to Malaysia through 10 agencies.
“All the agents live in Bangladesh,” he told bdnews24.com’s Golam Mujtaba Dhruba.
Zahangir said he read The Star report on the syndicate exploiting workers, but did not know the Bangladeshi businessman named in it.
Another official of the ministry, requesting anonymity, told bdnews24.com: “A person called ‘Amin’ used to send people a long time ago.”
He said he heard Amin using connections with ministers and MPs in Malaysia had designated the 10 agencies in Bangladesh for recruitment of workers.
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Nurul Islam BSc told bdnews24.com’s content partner Deutsche Welle that he was not aware of the issue.
Md Sayedul Islam, the labour counsellor at the Bangladesh High Commission in Malaysia, told Deutsche Welle he read the report, but they have not received an official statement from the Malaysia government.
The Star said in the report the Bangladeshi businessman in question had set up the new online registration system called Sistem Perkhidmatan Pekerja Asing (SPPA), the only one that can be used to hire Bangladeshi workers.
Through SPPA operated by a private company called Bestinet Sdn Bhd, even the employers have to pay RM 305 for each worker, according to the report.
Bestinet was also the company that developed the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System (FWCMS), used by the immigration department for foreign workers’ visa applications.
The Star said some of the 10 authorised agents under the SPPA were “merely fly-by-night companies created solely to rake in money by playing middleman between the workers and their prospective employers in Malaysia”.
It cost the agents less than RM 2,000 per Bangladeshi to take them to Malaysia, the newspaper said.
Previous licensed recruitment agents have now become “sub agents” for the big 10 companies, Chirara Kannan, owner of a consultancy service for several employers in the Klang Valley, told The Star.
The newspaper said its investigation revealed the Bangladeshi workers looking to land jobs in Malaysia paid RM 20,000 each to the smuggling syndicate spearheaded by the Bangladeshi businessman for work permit approvals and flight tickets from 2016.
Before the SPPA was set up, the Bangladeshi workers only paid between RM 7,000 and RM 8,000 each, Kannan told the newspaper.
Migrant workers from the other countries only needed to pay some RM 2,500 to be hired in Malaysia, the newspaper said.
Due to his strong political influence in both Malaysia and Bangladesh, the businessman with connections in the Malaysian home ministry was also instrumental in getting the two countries to sign a government-to-government agreement in 2016, the report said.
The agreement gave the 10 companies from Bangladesh the right to recruit migrant workers for Malaysia, according to the report.
“The agreement ultimately sidelined about 1,500 recruitment agents in Bangladesh,” it says.
“The ‘Datuk Seri’ has grown richer, his close aides and business associates living lavishly,” it quoted a source as saying.
Without naming the Bangladeshi mastermind in his late 40s behind the syndicate, who was married to a Malaysian for more than 15 years, the source told the newspaper the “Datuk Seri also shares a portion of the money he makes with politicians and government staff from both countries.”
The Star has not revealed the name of the Bangladeshi businessman, but the name of Aminul Islam Bin Abdul Nor, a ‘Datuk Seri’ and director of Bestinet, has been in discussion in Malaysia for past few days.
Malaysia started investigating him after the change of government recently. Local media reported that Dato Amin strengthened his syndicate by bribing ministers, MPs and officials of former prime minister Najib Razak’s administration.
Former deputy prime minister Zahid Hamidi, who is heading Razak’s party after the former prime minister resigned as party chief, is accused by the media of aiding Amin.
Incumbent Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had met Amin once, Malaysian media reported recently, but Yassin has denied the allegation.