Dhaka,  Thursday
25 July 2024

Malaysia scam: Syndicate fee nets Tk 7,235cr

Imran Ali, Dhaka

Published: 08:14, 14 June 2024

Malaysia scam: Syndicate fee nets Tk 7,235cr

Photo: Collected

The syndicate has reportedly extracted around 7,235 crore taka from approximately 476,000 workers who sought opportunities in Malaysia. Ruhul Amin Swapan's syndicate alone collected 1,52,000 taka per worker as a fee or contribution between 2022 and 2024. 

This situation has sparked controversy and led to the formation of an investigation committee by the ministry to probe various irregularities, including the inability of over 30,000 workers to travel as planned. Critics argue that syndication has historically hindered access to Malaysia's labor market, resulting in significant losses for the country. International organisations have also questioned the high costs associated with Bangladeshi workers' migration, which includes airfare, visa, medical, training, and other expenses.

Moving forward, there is a pressing need to address these issues to ensure fair and transparent practices in labor migration, benefiting both the workers and the countries involved.

BMET's Additional Director General, Shah Abdul Tariq, has indicated ongoing discussions concerning recent issues faced by Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia. He highlighted that more labor market opportunities are anticipated in the future, and efforts are underway to develop plans aimed at reducing the high costs associated with labor migration. The goal is to facilitate worker migration within affordable means.

According to reliable sources, Bangladesh and Malaysia entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on labor recruitment on December 19, 2021. Subsequently, on January 14 of the following year, Malaysia's Ministry of Human Resources requested Bangladesh's Ministry of Expatriate Welfare to select 25 recruiting agencies. In response, Bangladesh's ministry requested on January 18 to keep the opportunity open to all licensed recruiting agencies in the country. However, during a joint working group meeting on March 20, 2023, Malaysia unilaterally increased the number of approved recruiting agencies from 25 to 101, contrary to Bangladesh's preference and request.

BMET's Additional Director General, Shah Abdul Tariq, stated that discussions are already underway regarding the issues faced by Bangladeshi workers in Malaysia. He mentioned that more labor markets are expected to open in the future and that they are working on plans to reduce the high costs for workers.

"We will try to ensure that a worker can migrate within their means," he said.

According to sources from the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare, many individuals were unable to go to Malaysia despite paying up to 7 lakh taka, even though the government had set the cost at 78,990 taka. Malaysia primarily issued visas for agriculture, construction, service, and factory workers from Bangladesh.

For agricultural visas, the total cost ranges from 35,000 to 38,000 taka.  However, recruiting agencies charged agricultural workers between 2.7 lakh and 3 lakh taka.

The maximum cost for purchasing a construction worker visa is 7,000 taka, with all other expenses totaling 35,000 taka. Despite this, construction workers had to pay between 6.5 lakh and 7 lakh taka.

For service visas, the total cost is between 40,000 and 42,000 taka. However, candidates were charged between 6.5 lakh and 7.5 lakh taka.
Similarly, the total cost for a factory visa is between 40,000 and 42,000 taka, but workers were charged between 7 lakh and 7.5 lakh taka by recruiting agencies.

It is reported that 476,642 individuals have traveled to Malaysia so far, with each worker spending over 6 lakh taka. Of this amount, 1,52,000 taka was paid as a syndicate fee, which is essentially a form of subscription. As a result, Ruhul Amin Swapan's syndicate has amassed a substantial amount of money.

The Joint Secretary General of the Recruiting Agents Association Fakhrul Islam described this situation as a form of robbery, stating, "We were vocal against it from the beginning. They did not listen to us. An inquiry committee is currently working. We hope that action will be taken against those involved in these incidents."

Shariful Hasan, chief officer of BRAC's migration program, indicated that a Bangladeshi named Amin Noor controlled the entire system in Malaysia. He resides in Malaysia and, along with a gang from Bangladesh, orchestrates this operation. This gang includes influential people from both countries.

Ali Haider Chowdhury, General Secretary of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), acknowledged a lack of supervision throughout the process. He stated, "Since people could not go, we have to take some responsibility for it. We are talking about our recruiting agencies. Since they couldn't go, these things are being talked about a bit more. Even in 2018, 52,000 workers could not go due to the shutdown of the Malaysian government. Whenever there is a crisis, airlines seize the opportunity. The same happened in this case. So these things have to be considered."

The Joint Secretary General of the Recruiting Agents Association condemned the situation, labeling it as a form of robbery and asserting their longstanding opposition to it. He expressed frustration that their warnings went unheeded and noted the ongoing work of an inquiry committee, expressing hope for action against those responsible.

In 2018, the Malaysian government suspended the labor market for Bangladeshi workers amid accusations of human trafficking and corruption amounting to Tk 5,000 crore. This suspension remained in effect until the market was reopened in 2022. However, it was abruptly closed again on June 1 this year, disrupting the flow of Bangladeshi workers seeking opportunities in Malaysia.