MMEA, DoF officers arrested over bribes for illegal fishing activities

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) arrested 22 people including five Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) officers and a Department of Fisheries (DoF) officer on Sunday for allegedly taking bribes to turn a blind eye to illegal fishing activities of foreign vessels in local waters.

The MACC learnt that the kickbacks ranged between RM50,000 and RM200,000 for each fishing vessel that was allowed to intrude and fish in Malaysian waters.

Apart from the MMEA and DOF officer, the MACC held nine civilians and seven Vietnamese including two women in Pahang, Terengganu, Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan.

Also seized in the joint anti-graft operation between the MACC and MMEA was RM1.9 million in bribes received by the suspects.

Investigators also froze a total of RM2 million found in the bank accounts of the suspects.

The suspects are being investigated under laws of the Fisheries Act 1985 for the intrusion, using disallowed fishing nets and using cloned boats.

In a joint statement issued by the MACC and MMEA, it was revealed that runners had negotiated and paid off crooked DOF and MMEA personnel to avoid action on illegal fishing activities by foreigners on Malaysian waters at the east coast states, Johor, Sabah and Sarawak.

According to the MMEA, 1,063 foreign vessels and 8,898 of its crew were held since 2006.

Vietnamese fishing boats were the highest at 605, followed by Indonesia at 335 and Thailand at 100.
The rest were vessels from the Philippines, China, Singapore, Brunei and Taiwan.

The MMEA believes the numbers are much higher than figures officially recorded and will study current operating systems and procedures to overcome the issue.

It said the encroachment of foreign fishing vessels greatly affected the livelihood of local fishermen and fish supply in the country.