MBI probed over links with international drug ring

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KUALA LUMPUR — MBI Group International, which was at the centre of a crackdown on its financial activities last month, has been implicated in links with an international drug trafficking syndicate uncovered in southern Thailand.

A high-ranking Thai police source said investigators were given the go-ahead to further investigate the alleged links during a recently concluded anti-narcotics law enforcement meeting between Malaysia and their Thai counterparts in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

“The Thai officers will come to Malaysia at the end of the month to follow up on leads they have allegedly linking the diversified company with transborder drug trade,” the source said.

Thai police began putting the pieces together following a 282kg syabu seizure at Sadao Immigration checkpoint in March last year.

“It was the drug seizure which triggered suspicion and resulted in the arrest of two Malaysian traffickers with links to Penang,” the source said.

“Records of seized financial transactions led investigators to believe there was a connection between the seized drugs and the company.

“This came after one of the Penang-based subsidiaries was found to have a RM1 million transaction in connection with the seized drug shipment.”

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry was handling the probe into MBI Group International together with several government departments and enforcement agencies.

“The police are merely assisting in the investigations into MBI allegedly being part of a transnational syndicate as the probe is spearheaded by the ministry,” he said.

Among the agencies involved are the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team, AG’s Chambers, Customs Department, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Inland Revenue Board, Bank Negara, Companies Commission of Malaysia and Immigration Department.

On Monday, Bernama reported a team of Thai officers would arrive in Malaysia to seek information about the company and gather evidence into alleged drug trafficking.

The source said Thai police had sent numerous requests for the founder of the company to make an appearance to answer questions, but all were ignored.

On July 10, Thai enforcement authorities set up a multi-agency committee to investigate the Malaysian company with business interests in southern Thailand, particularly in Hatyai and Danok.

This is the first time Thailand has set up a powerful multi-agency committee to investigate a company, underlining the severity of the allegation.

“The suspicion that the company undertook aggressive expansion in its investment but did not pay taxes after posting losses annually prompted the authorities to take action,” the source said.

The committee which was set up months ago included the Thai Attorney General’s (AG) office, Department of Special Investigations, Narcotics Suppression Bureau, ONCB, Anti-Money Laundering Office Revenue Department, Department of Business Development and the Bank of Thailand.

In May, the ministry froze 91 bank accounts in eight local banks amounting to RM177mil which were linked to the company.

On June 19, the founder of MBI was arrested at his luxury home in Kulim, Kedah, following investigations into the company’s alleged illegal money scheme by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry.

During the raid, authorities seized more than RM600,000 in cash and three luxury vehicles.

Three days later the suspect in his 50s was released after having his statement recorded.

Since establishing a foothold in the kingdom four years ago, MBI expanded quickly and has at least 20 subsidiaries operating hotels, entertainment outlets, theme parks, money exchange and restaurants.