Malaysian police announced the arrest of a suspected criminal leader who is said to be close to the Chinese underworld, following his surrender to law enforcement here on Monday after more than a year in hiding.
Nicky Liow Soon Hee, who faces 26 counts of money laundering according to the police, had been on the run since March 2021 when authorities smashed his syndicate and arrested more than 60 suspects, including some law enforcement officers, police said.
Nicky is alleged to be close to the United States-sanctioned Chinese triad leader Wan Kuok Koi (commonly known as Broken Tooth), the head of the 14K Triad, one of the largest Chinese organized crime gangs in the world.
“[Nicky] Liow Soon Hee also known as Nicky Liow was arrested at 11 a.m. at the Federal Police Commercial Crime Department office in Jalan Tun Razak after he turned up and surrendered to police,” Commercial Crime Director Kamarudin Md. Din said.
“Liow will be charged with 26 counts of money laundering under … the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001,” he added.
Liow is scheduled to be produced at Shah Alam court in Selangor on Tuesday. He is staring at a prison sentence of 15 years and hefty fines, if convicted.
Last month, the Federal Police Commercial Crime Department obtained an arrest warrant for Liow after it filed charges against him at the Shah Alam Court for money laundering offenses under the instructions of the Attorney General’s Chambers, according to Kamarudin.
Liow’s Nicky Gang operated a telecommunication scam where it tricked victims, mostly in China, into handing over large sums of money, allowing the gang to allegedly amass millions of ringgit, police said. The syndicate would also target investors from China by promising them huge returns through investments in cryptocurrency, real estate and the foreign exchange market.
During a series of raids in March 2021 to take down the Nicky Gang, police arrested more than 50 people and seized 773,000 ringgit (U.S. $187,500) along with 35 vehicles valued at 8.86 million ringgit ($2.14 million) under provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act of 2001.
Among those arrested were Liow’s two brothers, Liow Wei Kin and Liow Wei Loon, but they were later freed after prosecutors dropped charges against them.
A series of sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department on Wan Kuok Koi, the Macau underworld kingpin allowed the Royal Malaysia Police to establish links to the Nicky Gang, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, then the police chief of Johor state, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, in an interview last April.
“It was crucial information as based on the tip of the iceberg. We were able to study the serious and extensive operations of the local syndicate, which has international connections,” Ayob told BenarNews. “It is very serious and we are very concerned what would have happened should we have failed to react accordingly and slam the brakes on their operation.”
He described Liow’s and Wan Kuok Koi’s relationship as close.
“Liow and Broken Tooth are as close as siblings,” Ayob said.
“They have known each other since 2018 and Broken Tooth … had since been providing Liow with patronage and security assurance under his 14K Triad.”