KUALA LUMPUR: A Bangladesh newspaper has exposed how the previous Malaysian government had allegedly created a manpower syndicate which monopolised the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers to the country.
The Daily Star reported that it had spoken to officials and obtained documents which showed that the syndicate raked in billions of ringgit from the two million odd Bangladeshi workers who came to Malaysia since early 2017.
Half of the money made is said to have been laundered to Malaysia, to be shared with “powerful politicians” in the country.
It also exposed how the recruitment process got murkier as Malaysian employers had to depend on agents or brokers to get the applications for Bangladeshi workers approved.
“Most of the employers had some level of problems in company documents, including financial reports.
“Therefore, the brokers had to bribe certain home ministry officials for getting the applications approved,” the daily quoted a Bangladeshi broker in Malaysia as saying.
It said the average bribe was RM1,500 per worker.
“Even, the human resources managers of the employing companies had to be bribed an average of RM1,000,” the broker said, while agents and sub-agents in Malaysia got an average of RM2,500 as commission.
“These transactions have no documents, but that's the fact.
“Even the fees that the employers were supposed to pay the Malaysian government for recruiting workers came from the migrants.”
On the Bangladesh end, sub-agents had to pay RM9,000 per worker to the syndicate members.
“Of that, RM5,000 was sent to a Datuk Seri in Malaysia.
“The Datuk Seri apparently shared the amount with the “powerful politicians” of Malaysia,” the daily quoted industry insiders as saying.
Of the remaining RM4,000, the syndicate members took part of it as commission and the rest was spent for processing the workers' documents.
The daily named the Datuk Seri as a Malaysian Permanent Resident status holder considered to be a major player in the industry.
Certain political elements and officials in Bangladesh also received a portion of the bribes, they said.
The Daily Star reported that the monopoly in recruitment of Bangladeshi workers was created after former Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced that worker recruitment would be done through the private sector instead of a government to government (G2G) mechanism.
During bilateral negotiations, Bangladesh had proposed the names of 745 recruiting agencies, but Malaysia selected only 10 without providing any basis for it.
This was done through a letter sent to Dhaka on Jan 9, 2017 which was signed off by former Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot.
The secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury, was quoted as saying that Bangladesh had to accept the 10 agencies if it wanted to send migrant workers to Malaysia.
“So, Bangladesh succumbed to Malaysia's proposal.
“Additionally, a Bangladeshi-born businessman was allegedly behind the syndicate's formation, and all 10 agencies began charging higher fees.”
“The syndicate was thriving until the new Malaysian government suspended recruitment from Bangladesh on September 1 this year following allegations of widespread irregularities against the syndicate.”
The daily reported that the Datuk Seri was behind the creation of an IT firm that provided an online registration system which was the only one which could be used to hire Bangladeshi workers.
“It was the system through which the recruitment was monopolised and manipulated for recruitment of foreign workers from all the labour-sending countries, including Bangladesh.
The system, would however allocate recruitment jobs only to the 10 agents, and that's how the total monopoly was created.
In a latest development over the issue, a High Court in Dhaka had on Tuesday directed the Bangladesh government to form an inter-ministerial committee to investigate the monopoly and submit a probe report in six months.
The daily also quoted PKR vice president Tian Chua as saying that migrant workers' recruitment was a lucrative business in Malaysia during the previous regime.
“A lot of politically connected agencies are making money out of that,” he was quoted as saying.
“The problem is the people who bring the migrants, don't employ them. Their objective is only to import migrants and make money against each migrant,” Chua said, adding that the present government was working to bring discipline to the foreign worker recruitment sector.
The New Straits Times has contacted Richard and Zahid for response but both have yet to reply.