PETALING JAYA: Elements of human trafficking and forced labour have been detected in the rare earth elements (REE) theft case in Kedah, says home minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
According to Saifuddin, police found that migrant workers, including those from Myanmar and Nepal, were not paid by their employers, who are now being investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).
“It became clear that they (migrant workers) were working without pay. They were instructed to dig holes, excavate, and extract the ores. They were not paid,” Saifuddin said during a World Day Against Trafficking in Persons press conference.
“This matter is under investigation. The suspects are now detained under Sosma.”
Fifty-two people believed to be involved in REE mining were detained in Bukit Enggang, Sik, earlier this year. Saifuddin said another two people were arrested in February for not having valid documents.
On Monday, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Azam Baki confirmed that Kedah menteri besar Sanusi Nor would be summoned to assist in the investigation.
In July, Azam was reported to have said that his officers were tracking down several Chinese nationals as witnesses, as they are believed to have invested in the rare earth mining operation. At the time, he said Sanusi would be summoned next.
However, on Aug 9, Azam said MACC had delayed Sanusi’s interview as it was focusing on fresh leads.
So far, 12 witnesses have provided statements to the anti-graft agency to assist in ongoing investigations.