Mystery of RM13M Stash

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Poser of who the massive amount of cash belongs to even as fourth Sabah prostitution ring suspect is detained.

  • Source and intended use of RM13m unknown
  • Cash was lying openly on the bed, and stuffed into drawers, boxes, big trash bags, with some even mouldy
  • Money believed to be from prostitution, human trafficking, money laundering and tax evasion

Investigators have drawn a blank over the source and intended use of the RM13.56 million found during an anti-vice raid by Immigration officials in Kota Kinabalu.

They are trying to figure out the answers even as Immigration officials arrested a fourth person yesterday to help shed light on the puzzle.

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said the authorities believe the sheer size of the cash stash found in a hotel room and an apartment in the city last week could not have come from regular business activities.

“We are looking at all kinds of aspects, from money laundering to human trafficking, prostitution, tax evasion and even illegal building renovations,” he told a press conference at the Sabah Immigration headquarters.

He said the fourth suspect, a 46-year-old local woman, is the owner of the apartment where RM1.1 million was earlier found and the wife of the main suspect detained along with two others.

Mustafar said that they have yet to find out the woman’s exact role in the case but he believed she was the caretaker of the money.

He also said they were investigating the addition of partitions at the spa and looking into whether the hotel owners knew about what kind of activities went on in the premises leased to the spa operators.

He expressed scepticism that the hotel owners may be clueless when the lease was long-term.

Apparently, the premises had been renovated without a permit and its emergency route was used as a rest area.

“There was some remodelling done to the spa. There was a jacuzzi and there was ‘jelly’ and condoms for sexual use, you know the activities go beyond normal spa services,” Mustafar said.

“What we know is that they have been licensed to operate since 1999. How long they have been running illegal prostitution services or anything else, we do not know yet.

“But we have found records of business transactions since 2008, and we believe this money has been stashed over the years,” he said.

The bundles of cash in denominations of RM50 and RM100 were lying openly on the bed as well as stuffed into drawers and in boxes and big trash bags. Some banknotes were even mouldy. The amount seized was RM13,563,227.60.

The seized money will be kept at an undisclosed location for use as exhibits in any future court proceedings, Mustafar added.

The cash seizure is the biggest in the history of the Immigration Department.

The two locals and a Filipino national who were arrested have been remanded for seven days since last Friday. Mustafar said they will also apply for a remand order on the woman.

He added that investigators did not rule out the possibility that an international syndicate was involved.

Mustafar said the raid, under Ops Gegar, was initiated after a tip-off on vice activities at the spa of a popular business hotel in downtown Kota Kinabalu.

Seventeen Filipinas, believed to be victims of human trafficking for the sex trade, have been given shelter.

Apart from the Immigration Act, the case is being investigated under the Penal Code and Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

Earlier report: Nov 27, Three Suspects of Prostitution Ring Nabbed, RM13M Cash Seized