PETALING JAYA: A South African model is being probed for allegedly cooking up a story that she was forced into offering sexual services after her arrival in Malaysia.
Her plight had grabbed media attention in the country as well as in South Africa in late July.
Police in South Africa are now looking into claims made by Princess Mahlangu, a 24-year-old aspiring beauty queen from Bloemfontein, that she had been deceived into going to Malaysia by the organiser of a beauty pageant that never took place.
She had alleged she was trapped in the clutches of a sex trafficking syndicate and was confined to a hotel room with other female victims like her.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula had expressed sympathy with her plight and had paid for the cost of her flight home and received her at the airport on July 30.
Yesterday, the Johannesburg-based news daily The Citizen reported that Mahlangu, who was earlier said to have been rescued by Malaysian police from the hotel, had actually made up the story to get back home.
It cited a South African police source as saying that “there were no elements of crime in the case”.
“When she got there (Malaysia), she did not have proper accommodation. So she decided to lie to the police that she was being trafficked,” the source was quoted as saying.
The report said there had already been some dispute about whether Mahlangu was telling the truth when Mbalula had announced her “rescue” in Malaysia at a press conference in July.
Mbalula, however, was adamant that the young woman was telling the truth, it said.
It added that Mahlangu was apparently informed by the organiser of the Miss United Countries beauty contest that the event in Malaysia had been cancelled, but she decided to travel to KL anyway to “avoid embarrassment”, likely because she had been tweeting about it a great deal.
Meanwhile, the pageant organiser Tare Munzara was reported to have been “shocked” by Mahlangu’s claims that he may have been involved in sex trafficking.
“I lost a lot of business deals because of Princess’s false claims,” he was quoted as saying.
When news of her supposed plight first broke out, South African media reported that Mahlangu and some other participants of the contest were informed by their handler at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport that the show had been cancelled. They were then allegedly held hostage in a hotel room.
It was reported that she managed to make a frantic phone call to her brother who then contacted the police minister, who in turn contacted Interpol and the Malaysian police.
The reports claimed that this led to Malaysian police swooping on the hotel and rescuing the women who were said to be about to be smuggled to different parts of the world for sex.
They also said that one of the women‚ a Zimbabwean‚ was suspected of being part of the trafficking syndicate and had been detained.
However, these accounts appear to have been reported almost exclusively by the South African media with no reported statement on such an operation issued by the Malaysian police.