KUALA LUMPUR • The owner of a roadside burger chain has been hailed as a hero for releasing two videos alleging that Malaysian police and city council officers were “protecting” gambling machine syndicates and foreign migrants selling contraband cigarettes in a Selangor township where he operates one of his stalls.
Mr Asri Janggut (Bearded Asri), 42, founder of the Hot Burger chain, was at first investigated by the police, and had his stall raided by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) for making the claims.
But this created a huge uproar among netizens, who said the authorities were zooming in on the wrong target.
“Those who side with corrupters or protect illegal foreigners, gambling dens must be stopped,” wrote one netizen on a YouTube video discussing Mr Asri’s expose.
The comment was one among hundreds supporting the burger entrepreneur and shooting venom at the authorities.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission stepped in last Tuesday to arrest four MBSA officers to probe a possible protection racket.
The council’s enforcement director was nabbed last Friday.
The authorities have also promised that action against these illegal activities will continue.
Malaysiakini news site reported its sources as saying the council officers were believed to have received between RM300 (S$100) and RM3,500 in bribes a month from each of the business premises – including unlicensed food stalls, contraband cigarette shops and gambling outlets.
The uproar started when Mr Asri, whose real name is Mohd Asri Hamid, posted a video on his Hot Burger Facebook page which showed rows of dilapidated shophouses in Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh, where he claimed gambling machine syndicates freely ran illegal operations behind closed doors.
In another video, Mr Asri showed what he claimed were “foreigners” standing by the roadside to sell cigarettes imported illegally from Indonesia.
The two videos had more than four million views since they were posted some three weeks ago, with netizens clamouring for the authorities to jump into action.
Mr Asri said he recorded the videos after his complaints about these activities came to nought.
“I made police reports about three months ago by sending pictures and videos. After these gambling shops shut down for two days, they restarted their operations again,” he said in a media interview last week.
“What is even more sad is that there were (gambling) towkays (bosses) who knew it was me who gave the information” to the authorities, Mr Asri added.
The Sungai Buloh district police’s immediate reaction was to say they would investigate Mr Asri for denigrating their “credibility”, while the city council raided the Hot Burger stall and other stalls in the area.
But, spurred by netizens and supported by the Malaysia Muslim Consumer Association, Mr Asri appeared on Facebook Live and in media interviews to give his side of the story.
Do a search for “Asri Janggut” on YouTube today and one can find more than 200 videos from mainstream and Internet media of Mr Asri talking about the issue and defending himself, as well as others praising what he did.
Malaysia’s police chief Abdul Hamid Bador met Mr Asri last Wednesday to assure him that action would be taken.
Home Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainuddin visited the Bandar Baru Sungai Buloh area last Monday to see for himself the shophouses where the illegal gambling dens were said to have proliferated.
Mr Asri’s lawyer, Mr Ahmad Amzar Ahmad Azlan, said last Friday that the arrests of the MBSA officers occurred after people like Mr Asri exposed the truth.
“We can see now that after the issue was exposed, arrests were made. So, the viral expose was not done in vain,” Mr Ahmad said.
Commenter Zaridah Majid wrote on YouTube: “Bro Asri… Keep up the good work!”