MALAYSIA - The Malaysian government has lifted the lid on crime syndicates by listing the names of 49 prominent gangs, with 40,313 active gangsters, as part of a move to show the extent of the menace the police are fighting and to win public support for tougher laws.
There has been widespread public alarm since the homes of Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, the Perlis mufti and a former Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar were burgled in recent weeks and almost-daily shootings claimed the lives of more than 20 people, including a top banker.
Striking back, the police launched Ops Cantas (Operation Cut-off), conducting raids on nightclubs and the homes of suspects, and putting up roadblocks manned by police commandos. In the past two weeks, more than 1,000 suspected criminals have been nabbed and five shot dead.
Thursday was the first time that Malaysia has released a comprehensive list of criminal gangs and their numbers.
"These groups were found to have provoked a series of gang wars, and carried out murders with firearms and other weapons since they were established," Home Ministry secretary-general Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi said at a news conference.
The gangs are involved in drug distribution, extortion and murders with firearms, he added.
The top five are Gang 04, Gang 08, Double 7, Tiga Line and Gang 30, he said, adding that Gang 04 has 5,440 members and Gang 08 has 4,423, most of them Indian.
Operating in Penang, Kedah, Johor and Kuala Lumpur, the gangs - some formed in the 1970s - have been linked to drug sales, strife over control of parking lots and extortion.