World News

Malaysia's immigration chief charged in visa scam

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia charged the country’s former immigration chief on Tuesday with graft, the latest in a series of corruption cases involving senior government officials.

The crackdown came after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi vowed sweeping reforms to tackle corruption and shake-up the judiciary following a March general election.

Abdul Wahid Md Don was arrested last month charged with accepting a 60,000 ringgit ($18,020) bribe from a businessman to help speed up the approval of visas for 4,337 Bangladeshi workers bound for Malaysia, the Star newspaper said in its online edition.

He pleaded not guilty on Tuesday and was freed on bail. His trial was set for May next year, it said.

Malaysia is a magnet for cheap labour from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia and Bangladesh. The country is home to two million legal foreign workers, as well as another 500,000 to 700,000 working illegally.

Some resort to bribery to speed up their visa applications or to avoid deportation.

The anti-corruption agency recently charged the tourism chief and a senior fisheries officer for graft. Both denied the charges.