Crime International Law

4 international fugitives who turned Malaysia into a safehouse

If we ask you to name international fugitives, you might mention Jho Low, who’s well-known as one of the main 1MDB guys, or Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted of murdering Altantuya Shaariibuu. What’s common between the two of them is how they fled Malaysia to other countries after committing crimes.

But what if we tell you that there are wanted criminals from other countries like murderers or gangsters, who might be lurking around in Malaysia? OMG, we have murderers in town????

Well, probably. So, to find out more about this, we put on our detective hats and compiled a list of criminals wanted in their home countries (or other countries), who have or might still be in Malaysia. Let’s start with…

 

1. Anis Ahmed

Unedited image from FMT

The story of Anis Ahmed began in 1996 when he and his brothers – Haris and Josef Ahmedgunned down Mustafizur Rahman Mustafa in a dusty back street in Bangladesh. But this was no ordinary murder, Anis & bros, along with the victim, were not ordinary people as well.

Anis & bros are apparently closely-acquainted with Bangladesh’s current Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. In the past, they were her unofficial security force, who guarded her at rallies. In fact, one of the bros, Aziz Ahmed, is the current Chief of Army Staff in Bangladesh.

The Prime Minister, Hasina (seated) with General Aziz Ahmed, who’s also Anis’ brother. Img from FMT

Mustafizur, on the other hand, was a member of the Freedom party (aka the opposition party in Bangladesh) and is believed to be Hasina’s political rival. But unlike the typical brawls that you’ve probably seen between Malaysian political rivals, the Freedom Party tried to assassinate Hasina in 1989.

This might be why some reports believe that the murder was politically-driven. Despite that, Mustafizur survived the shot long enough to testify against Anis, Haris and Josef from his deathbed in the hospital. In 2004, the brothers were convicted of murder and this resulted in a lifetime prison sentence for Anis.

In 2007, the court ordered Anis to surrender in Bangladesh but he fled to Malaysia and bought a house in KL instead. He was last spotted in 2019 when his brother, Aziz visited Malaysia. The brothers were seen driving around in diplomatic vehicles and spending the evening in the Bangladesh High Commission in KL.

As of now, the Malaysian police are still searching for Anis.

 

2. Wan Kuok Koi aka ‘Broken Tooth’

Unedited image from Asia Times

Growing up in the slums of Macau, Wan Kuok Koi (Broken Tooth) is everything you can think of when you hear the word gangster. He is notorious as an ah long (loan shark) and the tauke of 14k, a triad group responsible for large-scale drug-trafficking activities around the world. He also had several arrest warrants and charges on him in the past.

If you think that sounds like something out of a movie, you’re right- there is a movie produced based on his own life story! In fact, Wan financed the 1998 movie Casino (not the one with Robert De Niro) that featured the main character who took his name. 

What’s ironic is that Wan was arrested while watching his own movie. He faced several charges including attempted murder of the chief of police Antonio Marques Baptista with a car bomb that landed him a 15-year prison sentence in November 1999. However, this sentence was later reduced to 13 (or 14?) years.

After he was released from prison, Wan ventured into business in – you guessed it – Malaysia in August 2020 by becoming a non-executive chairman of an IT company, Inix Technologies Holdings Berhad.

We dunno why he’s known as Broken Tooth. Screenshot from The Edge Markets

But it seems like his old ways still live within him. In September 2020, a report was lodged against him for fraud amounting to RM6 million as he failed to transfer the Inix shares he bought to a third party as agreed. The authorities also suspected that there was a price manipulation involving Inix’s share around the same time Wan held the role in the company.

However, there’s no evidence linking Inix to the illegal activities. Meanwhile, Wan ciao-ed from Inix in December 2020 and the police are still on a lookout for him. Wan, who was last seen in Malaysia in December 2019 (some say January 2020), is also wanted in the US and Australia.

 

3. Mas Selamat Kastari

Unedited image from Straits Times

Mas Selamat Kastari‘s story began in the 90s when he got involved in the terrorist group called Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia and gotten close to the group’s leader, Hambali. He was wanted by the Singaporean govt for plotting to hijack an airplane from Bangkok and crash it into Changi Airport.

In 2006, Mas was arrested in Indonesia after faking his identity to meet his son. This was when Singapore requested the Indonesian govt to extradite him. In the end, he was detained in Singapore under the Internal Security Act without a trial. 

Hambali. Img from Straits Times

Despite Singapore’s supertight securities, Mas somehow managed to escape from prison on the evening of 27 February 2008. Upon learning about Mas’ escape, Singapore quickly went on a manhunt for him. Soon enough, Mas went from being wanted by the Singaporean govt to being listed in the Interpol as well. 

There were conflicting reports of Mas’ whereabouts but, based on Singapore’s investigations, Mas was believed to have escaped on an improvised floating device across the Straits of Johor to Malaysia. As it turns out, he escaped to Kampung Tawakal in Johor, where a few residents there helped him hide from authorities.

But it wasn’t long before the Malaysian authorities discovered Mas in the kampung. This resulted in a mass arrest, which saw Mas being extradited to Singapore, where he has been detained since September 2010.

 

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4. Dr Zakir Naik

Unedited image by BERNAMA (2017) via The Star

Dr Zakir Naik needs no introduction. The controversial Muslim preacher from India has been wanted by the Indian govt for allegedly making hate speeches that incite terrorism after a militant group attacked a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that resulted in 29 deaths. He was also accused of laundering money in 2016.

Since then, Zakir has been on the run and hiding in Malaysia, where he was eventually given permanent residence by then-Deputy Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in 2012. But the special treatment changed after Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya.

You can probably see it from Mahathir’s face. #jk. Img from Zakir Naik’s Facebook via Malaysiakini

In 2019, the Indian govt made a formal request to Malaysia to extradite Zakir. However, in the same year, India also requested Malaysia to expel him.

“Instead, India just wanted Malaysia to expel him from our shores. Where Zakir travelled thereafter was not Malaysia’s concern, and India would be happy that a thorn in bilateral ties had disappeared.” – Former Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, as quoted by the Malay Mail.

But it seems like Malaysia isn’t doing any of those although Tommy and the PDRM agreed to this request. The reason to this was because Mahathir, the then Prime Minister, believed that no other country would accept a Muslim preacher like Zakir.

Oddly enough, Zakir doesn’t seem to be accepted locally as well. He was banned from giving speeches in Malaysia because of two controversial statements he made in 2019 such as when he apparently told the Malaysian Chinese to ‘balik China’.

The last time anyone has seen him was at an event organised by Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim) in September 2020.

 

*BONUS* An Aussie man ALMOST hid in Malaysia

We don’t have much info about the guy, so here’s a news headline to show that it’s legit. Screenshot from BBC

Unlike the other criminals mentioned above, an Australian man charged with sexual assault didn’t make it to the list because he was caught halfway through his journey to Malaysia.

The 31-year-old man’s escape adventure began when he sailed from a New South Wales town in his small yacht, which later got into trouble and was rescued by a cargo ship that was headed to Malaysia. He boarded the ship and magically disappeared from the cabin when the ship was making a stop at a port in New South Wales.

The cabin crew lodged a report on this and after two days of searching for the man, authorities found him hiding in an air-conditioning vent. He was actually planning to stay hidden there until the ship arrives in Malaysia… but you probably know what happens after the police found him la.

He was found here. Img from BBC

 

And there are actually a LOT more!

Tbh, we couldn’t fit all wanted criminals in this list. For instance, 129 Thai criminals were reportedly hiding in Malaysia in 2018. According to an unnamed source, 17 of them were linked to the armed conflict that was happening in Southern Thailand.

Click image from The New York Times to read more about the Southern Thailand conflict.

In fact, it’s a bit odd that some of these wanted criminals like Anis Ahmed could even travel about or even visit places like the Bangladesh High Commission(!!!). That’s probably because each country has its own laws that view crimes differently.

Take the case of Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, as an example. The Malaysian govt has been trying to get its hands on Sirul, who fled to Australia in 2014. However, Australia won’t extradite him to Malaysia because of the death penalty Sirul is facing in Malaysia.

“It is still status quo as they will not extradite anyone to a country where the death penalty can be carried out on the individual.” -IGP Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador to The Star.

Sirul. Img from FMT

However, this does NOT mean that Malaysia welcomes or is keeping criminals, ok? Over the years, Malaysia and Singapore have worked together to extradite each other’s criminals and managed to arrest 55 fugitives between 2016 and 2019.

But Singapore isn’t the only country Malaysia works with to bring back criminals. There are 15 others and you can check them out here.

Having said that, it’s probably safe to say that Malaysia is not exactly the best place to hide if you commit any crime. Besides, if it is, then why is Jho Low still hiding somewhere else?

Unless… *dun dun DUNNNNNNNN*

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