LAHAD DATU - The seemingly endless cross-border kidnappings in Sabah's east coast have raised the spectre of corruption among law enforcement agencies.
There is a growing concern among the elite of Sabah's security forces that cross-border criminals could have bribed some of the frontliners to look the other way.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein himself admitted recently that corruption and leakages were among the causes for repeated foreign intrusions into Sabah.
"Investigations have shown that Sabah's security breach has been affected by corruption and leaking of vital information by irresponsible parties," he was quoted as saying.
Sabah east coast folks speak freely about smugglers greasing the palms of the men in uniform to bring in "cargo" ranging from drugs to illegal immigrants.
A boat operator said the monthly payment for hassle-free smuggling could reach RM20,000 (S$7,700) a month.
A smuggler, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that it could cost RM30 to RM50 a head to sneak an illegal immigrant from southern Philippines into Sabah through the east coast sea borders.
The man, who is a Malaysian of Filipino origin, said the kidnap groups had good links with some Malaysian officials and families to move in and out of Sabah's east coast. The perceived ease of movement is getting the attention of the authorities.
A police officer in one of the east coast districts was transferred out after questions were raised over disparity of his income and his luxury vehicles (three Toyota Land Cruisers).