Fake firearms, real bullets: Cops nab 20 suspects over Airsoft cache in Sungai Skudai
Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay points out a picture of the recovered firearms by police from the Sungai Skudai river at the Johor police contingent headquarters in Johor Baru today. — Picture by Ben Tan

JOHOR BARU, Jan 14 — Police arrested 20 men here in connection with the recent seizure of a large cache of firearms consisting of a semi-automatic pistol, ammunition and various replica firearms in several locations here recently.

Johor police chief Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said policemen from the General Operations Force (GOF) came across the firearms in the Sungai Skudai river on January 1.

He said police found that only the semi-automatic pistol and 6,000 rounds of ammunition was genuine, while the remainder six firearms were replica Airsoft guns that included five 0.22 air rifle bullets and Airsoft firearm components.

“The raiding team arrested 20 male suspects, aged between 21 and 50, that consisted of seven locals and 13 Indonesian workers. Among the locals was a 39-year-old manager of an outdoor equipment shop.

“Follow-up operations at the manager’s house led to the discovery of an air rifle, 582 live ammunition of various calibre and five military-grade pyrotechnic thunderflash devices,” said Ayob Khan during a press conference at the Johor police contingent headquarters here today.

Also present was Johor criminal investigation chief Senior Assistant Commissioner Md Yusof Ahmad and Johor Baru North police chief Assistant Commissioner Rupeah Abd Wahid.

An Airsoft gun is a recreational replica firearm that is illegal in Malaysia and as per any firearms, requires a permit and license.

It is understood that the police’s GOF central brigade and 5th Battalion intelligence operatives came across the firearms during an operation at a premises in Taman Tampoi Utama, that led to the discovery of several firearms in the Sungai Skudai river on January 1.

The firearms were believed to have been discarded along several locations in the river and were extricated using a magnetic device.

The case was being investigated under Section 7 of the Firearms Act 1971.

Ayob Khan said following the arrest and seizure, the manager and two workers will be charged in court while the remainder 17 were given bail to testify during the prosecution.

He said the manager was also being investigated under Section 36 of the Firearms Act 1971 and Section 8 (1) of the same Act which provides for a maximum jail term of seven years and a fine of RM10,000 if convicted.

Ayob Khan revealed that the recent arrests and seizures of the firearms was linked to a security company manager who had been previously charged in the Johor Baru Magistrate’s Court and the Kota Tinggi Sessions Court in early October last year.

He said the case is still pending in court and the latest discovery were the remainder firearms that were hidden during his arrest last October.

“There are no elements of smuggling of firearms in or out from this state and the police advise the public to refrain from storing or owning genuine or unlicensed firearms as action will be taken according to the law,” said Ayob Khan.

On the ongoing operations for the possibility of more firearms, Ayob Khan said initial investigations revealed that the manager of the security company has a license to store firearms and Airsoft guns.

“Police believe that what transpired was he may only have a license for Airsoft guns and only one genuine firearm.

“Upon his arrest (last October), the suspects may have received instructions to dispose of the firearms and ammunition which were then thrown into the river.

“The marine police diving operation is still ongoing and I understand a moment ago there was another discovery of an Airsoft gun in the Sungai Skudai river. However, because of the strong currents it may take some time,” he explained.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador reportedly confirmed the discovery of the firearms last Sunday.

However, he declined to comment on the motives for the discovery of firearms only saying that Ayob Khan will hold a press conference on the matter.