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LAST_UPDATEFri, 22 Jun 2018 11pm

5-Minute Visa Nod Raises Concerns

QUESTIONS have been raised over the role of a ‘conduit’, who is facilitating the processing of visas for Chinese tourists to come to Malaysia.

Aside from allegations that the arrangement is lopsided at the government’s expense, those concerned about the visa-made-easy initiative, which has been in place for a while now, said there are areas that may present a security risk to the country. They added that this deal has come under close scrutiny.

They point out the eNTRI facility in particular, where Chinese nationals only had to fill an online application to be granted the right to enter the country.

“This process takes less than five minutes… Those running this facility should furnish information and the criteria they used to screen applicants in that short period of time.”

Sources with intimate details of this arrangement said applicants are charged almost RM100 for this visa service. The entire sum goes to the company as profit.

Chinese nationals also have the option of using the eVISA or the Sticker Visa.

For these two, which cost almost RM175 per application, the government earns RM50 while the rest goes to the operators.

“Applicants naturally prefer the eNTRI facility as not only is it cheap, they only need to submit their application online. The worry is, of course, the screening process. Based on statistics, more than 1.3 million Chinese nationals had entered the country this way.”

The New Straits Times was made to understand that a company has been running this visa facility on five-year concessions, which has just been renewed.

Based on statistics, which the New Straits Times could not independently verify, the service provider had, in 2016, processed 175,000 eNTRI applications. That translates into earnings of RM18 million. Last year, it raked in almost RM70 million from 695,434 applications.

For the first quarter of this year, 466,032 applications have been processed through eNTRI, earning the service provider about RM46 million.

Its earnings from the issuance of the three types of visa for this year is about RM121 million.

According to documents that the NST saw, when the RM133 million earnings from the issuance of eNTRI visas are pooled with those from the Sticker Visa and eVISA services, the concessionaire would have made RM703 million between 2016 and the first quarter of this year.

For the corresponding period, RM229 million went into the government’s coffers. This is from the total entry of about 5.9 million Chinese nationals.

The NST contacted the directors of the company for their side of the story and asked them to respond to at least three of the following questions:

JUSTIFY its sharing of revenue with the government, where it takes a significantly bigger share each time any one of the three visa facilities are used, as well as spelling out its responsibilities vis-a-vis the government agencies involved.

JUSTIFY the charges imposed.

Sticker Visa — RM175 (RM50 to the government, RM125 to the company);

eVisa — RM175 (RM50 to the government, RM125 to the company); and,

eNTRI — RM100 (100 per cent goes to the company)

CAN it guarantee that the millions of Chinese nationals who enter Malaysia using eNTRI have been thoroughly vetted in the “speedy” approval process?

In response, one director of the concession company said he was overseas, while another said the questions are “very technical”. He asked for a sit-down interview to be conducted. That interview is scheduled for some time after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

At press time, Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali could not be contacted for comment.

Former Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board chairman Wee Choo Keong had, in 2016, said some Chinese visitors coming here are unhappy with being charged processing fees which he claimed were “excessive”.

He also expressed worry that the high “processing fee” will negate the benefits of the visa-free concession, and result in Chinese tourists giving the country a wide berth.

He is asking the government and Immigration Department to give the system a rethink, whose basis of payment, he said, is for “administration charges”.

Recently, in another exposure by Wee, reports have quoted Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab as saying that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission had seized documents from the agency’s office in Putrajaya.

The seizure is believed to be related to the awarding of a contract worth RM99 million to a digital marketing company, which was deemed to be done in a suspicious manner.

On June 6, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would review the monopoly policies practised by the previous administration with the possibility of limiting or ending them.

Recently, the Immigration Department announced it was ending its contracts with three companies that provided services for the rehiring of undocumented foreign workers, following a decision to end the rehiring programme.

The three companies, said to be likely linked to Umno personalities, are MyEG Services Sdn Bhd, Iman Resources Sdn Bhd and Bukti Megah Sdn Bhd. Their contracts will expire at the end of the month.

The awarding of contracts to the three companies has come under fire in the past for creating a monopoly. Many have demanded the responsibility be handed back to Immigration.

-NST