PUTRAJAYA: 14 persons have been remanded to assist in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) probe into allegations of protecting and receiving protection money from reflexology centre operators, in which the centers double as prostitution dens.

The remand order was issued by Magistrate Ahmad Asyraf Mohammad Kamal.

Four of the 14, who are premises owners, arrived at the court complex here at 9am in handcuffs. They have been slapped with a five-day remand, starting today.

The other 10, handcuffed and clad in the orange MACC lock-up T-shirts, arrived about one hour later in a tinted MACC bus. All of them are remanded until Friday.

The New Straits Times today reported that the MACC had conducted a ‘sting’ to establish the money trail of the lucrative prostitution business.

The commission’s intelligence division had set up its own “reflexology centre“, complete with a ‘dodgy’ section at the back for ‘extra’ services, just as their “competitors” had done.

In less than a week, they received the much-awaited visit.

A man came to collect “protection money” and assured the ‘owner’ that the local authority or police would not disrupt their operations, and that licensing would be a breeze.

The MACC has identified 146 illegal massage parlours in Kuala Lumpur, all offering sexual services.

Another 345 centres with valid licenses and are mostly their direct competitors, also offered illegal services, including sex and body-to-body massages.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki said although these illicit businesses did not involve leakages of the government’s funds, the problem, if left unchecked, would have serious repercussions to the country, including the spread of deadly diseases.

Sources with knowledge of the illicit money exchange between the hands of the premises owners and the authorities said it easily involved RM40 million a year.

In a raid on Monday, MACC had detained more than 10 people, including those who allowed these illicit premises to operate unchecked.

Among those detained were three officers with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall involved in licensing and enforcement, and three policemen, including a station chief, as well as a fireman who allegedly gave his nod for the premises to operate.

The graft buster also took on members of the underworld who had been greasing the palms of enforcers to allow them to run their multi-million ringgit business.

The NST had also reported that the graft busters picked up five of the mobsters and their runners, including the one who came to the MACC set-up.

Suspects, in handcuff and clad in the orang MACC lock-up T-shirts, being led to the court for remand. -- NSTP/AHMAD IRHAM MOHD NOOR.