INTERVIEW When he was the inspector-general of police (IGP), Musa Hassan had a recurring nightmare - that wealthy underworld figures could buy influence among police personnel, as well as ruling and opposition politicians.
Taking the popular ‘Godfather’ movies as a reference point, he highlighted the control that the mafia had exerted on US politicians first and law enforcement agencies next.
“It took years for them (the US) to resolve this,” Musa said in an interview, noting that he did not want a similar situation in Malaysia while he was police chief for four years from September 2006.
With drug trafficking, human trafficking, gaming syndicates and money laundering bringing big bucks into the modern underworld, he said gangsters are in a position to influence those in authority.
“My fear was that they (gangsters could) get involved with politicians. And if they got involved in politics, they could control the politicians and enforcement agencies. The enforcement agencies will (do) as they are told and cannot take action.”
Asked to give an example of a gangster exerting his influence on a politician, Musa laughed and, without naming anyone, said there were cases where arrests were made, but a politician would direct that the person be released.
“What is this, when the person detained is not even a politician? This existed during my time. However, I objected to this,” was all he was prepared to say.
During his tenure as Johor police chief earlier, he had instructed his officers to go after those involved in vice, gambling and the loan shark menace, because the police were being accused of not doing enough about the rising crime rate.
“I took stern action although some of the gangsters were friends of politicians. I told them (the politicians) that politics should not interfere with police work,” he said.
“(If anyone escaped the dragnet), I would ask my officers to prepare a list so that, when they returned, they could be arrested. (This was) seen as not favourable and some politicians asked why the state police chief was taking such action.”
Musa said several police officers who were close to the gangsters also became uneasy as a result of his actions, as channels to get extra money were cut off.
He claimed that he felt the backlash for taking a firm approach, with some even accusing him of having underworld links .
Where the blame lies for indebtedness
Following his retirement in September 2010, he had alleged that there had been third-party interference in his efforts to curb crime.
“Yes, it still exists. I did expose it. I sounded this out to (several) ministers and even to (premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) ... I took the stand that ‘I would do what I was directed’. If there was no directive, I would do it my way,” he said.
Musa also said he does not want to see loan sharks continuing to create problems for members of the public, as children are becoming afraid to go home for fear of attacks on the home.
He said the public should not blame the debtors alone for the situation, noting that action should be taken against money-lending syndicates that impose more than 18 percent in interest.
“If they are free to charge in excess of 18 percent, it shows there is no enforcement,” he said.
“Anyway, who gives the money lenders their licence? It is the Housing and Local Government Ministry. There are police personnel serving at the ministry but still, there are people being victimised until today.”
Tomorrow: The Copgate allegations
Additional reporting by Nigel Aw and Ahmad Fadli KC