PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Five individuals, including two staff of the Immigration Department at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), were detained yesterday in connection with smuggling of illegal immigrants, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the others detained in the integrated operation involving the police, Immigration Department, and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, were two foreigners and a local woman.

Seven people have been arrested so far, including two Immigration officers arrested earlier, on suspicion of smuggling foreign nationals, especially from Bangladesh, via KLIA.

Ahmad Zahid said about 40 per cent of the 1,500 Immigration Department staff at KLIA had been and would be transferred, including those involved in job rotation, whou be replaced with other staff at the Immigration counters.

“This is a proactive action taken immediately to clear the image of the Immigration Department that has been stained by some of its staff,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Workers and Illegal Immigrants here today.

According to a recent report in a local newspaper, thousands of Bangladeshis were smuggled into Malaysia through KLIA by four syndicates which were masterminded by staff in authorities of both countries.

The syndicates were said to have raked in about RM5.2 million in profits per year from the illegal activity.

Ahmad Zahid also praised the swift and firm action by Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali as well as for his efforts in monitoring enforcement and implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to restore the image of the department.

“Those who tarnished the image of Immigration Department by conspiring with the syndicates will be completely removed.

“We hope that what the Immigration director-general is doing will give a clear picture that the government is serious in addressing the problem,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid stressed that the government would not compromise and would take legal and internal action against the individuals involved in the smuggling activities.

“I congratulate the officers and staff of the Immigration Department who are not involved in these syndicates and are doing a great job,” he said.