KOTA KINABALU - An Immigration Department operation to rescue victims in the flesh trade unexpectedly led to the seizure of more than RM13 million (S$4.25 million) at two locations.
Sources said the department had received a tip-off that three Filipino women were being held at a hotel in the downtown area here and wanted to be rescued.
They said the Immigration officers found the women at a spa in the hotel.
Upon checking other rooms, they found another 17 Filipino women, whose ages ranged from late teens to early 30s, being kept there.
Immigration personnel also discovered piles of cash when they arrested three men, who were part of the syndicate, during the raid.
In Port Dickson, Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said RM11.88mil was initially recovered in the hotel.
Following further investigations, a raid was carried out in an apartment next to the hotel and another RM1.17mil was found there.
"Some of the cash were stuffed in envelopes and plastic bags, while some were just left out in the open," he said.
Mustafar said they were investigating the source and purpose of the money.
Two of the men held were locals, while the other was a Filipino, he added.
The department sent a team from its headquarters to coordinate the case, which he described as "high profile".