PETALING JAYA: Fugitive crime lord, Nicky Liow Soon Hee, was a self-absorbed lawbreaker hooked on publicity, an FMT review of his pictures and videos on social media shows.
The 33-year-old “Datuk Seri” acted with impunity to publicly display his hunger for money, power and fame.
Nicky’s conceited attempts at gaining big shot status also hinged on his social service that made him a hero in some people’s eyes.
The headlines last week were all about the founder of the Winner Dynasty Group, who now it has emerged, charmed people into a state of awe with well-publicised donations to social and religious bodies and government agencies.
Were Nicky’s generous handouts through his foundation, Yayasan Winner Emperor Sedunia, aimed at winning favours from the government and law enforcement, as well as to be loved by the public?
A beneficiary of donations by the foundation told FMT it was difficult to see Nicky as a crime kingpin and “Malaysia’s youngest philanthropist”.
He said Nicky told him he was making the donations in cash and kind to do social good as he had a poor beginning in life in Ampang.
However, he said, he could not understand Nicky’s brazen social media hype of extravagance and purported close relationships with influential people.
While playing philanthropist, his syndicate rented 48 apartments in Setiawalk, Puchong, where they controlled the CCTV network to conduct Macau scams at call centres, helped by China nationals.
A report lodged in Pontian, Johor, about the bogus sale of a RM1,500 mobile phone put police on the trail of the con jobs at the centre.
‘Money bags’ Nicky, who has 12 cases for criminal intimidation, causing hurt and drug-related offences, flaunted his wealth on social media and behaved as though he was untouchable.
He arrogantly posed with huge piles of Malaysian Ringgit in a room as if he were invincible.
A video of him observing his workers placing stacks of bills in several cash counting machines was equally haughty and made people angry.
In the video taken at an open space in broad daylight, Nicky said in Mandarin that the cash was from the “money game”, thought to be telecommunications fraud, Macau scam.
Nicky laughed as he said he enticed his clients, mostly from China, who invested from 500,000 Renminbi (RM315,392) and stood to win luxury cars such as Lamborghini, Rolls Royce and BMW from a lucky draw.
Singing a song related to the “money game”, he added investors were promised the cars would either come with single digit registration numbers or 9999 or 1111.
That wasn’t going to happen because Nicky declared in the video that it was him who was going to get a Ferrari with plate number 1, adding “let’s see what is the public’s response (to him driving the car).”
He regularly posed with the symbols of his version of “gangster” affluence: Rolls Royce, Bentley and other luxury cars, all of which he bought with cash, and posted pictures of him holding a gun.
Inspector-General of Police, Abdul Hamid Bador, said last week that the cockiness of Nicky by “openly exposing his wealth on social media” enhanced police investigations into various money laundering and commercial crime cases.
As his seven-year clandestine operations grew, Nicky claimed dalliances with VVIPs and proudly posted pictures of himself with them at various events on social media.
He had pictures of him standing next to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Senior Minister (Security) Ismail Sabri Yaakob and former inspector-general of police Khalid Abu Bakar.
The IGP said Nicky posted pictures of himself with VVIPs to give an impression of his relationship with them and to win over top police officers.
Hamid said Nicky infiltrated the police force by paying rogue cops to be his informants and to “move about freely as though there are no laws in this country.”
He was highly disturbed that a former deputy public prosecutor with a Datukship, who acted as a fixer for the syndicate, was among those who leaked information that resulted in Nicky escaping in the nick of time.
Also alarming was the revelation that 34 rotten personnel from various law enforcement agencies had provided protective umbrellas to Nicky and his gang for top money.
To date, police have arrested 68 people believed to be members of the gang and seized 16 luxury vehicles and foreign currency totalling over RM7 million in 70 raids conducted between March 20 and March 28.
Eight people with the titles Datuk Seri (two men) and Datuk (five men and one woman) were arrested.
Nicky also drew the attention of the police by hanging out with the notorious “Broken Tooth”, Wan Kuok Koi, who is the head of the ruthless 14K Triad.
While 14K Triad, a major organised crime syndicate in China, is on the global law enforcement radar, Wan is also being investigated by Malaysian police for fraud.
About six months after Wan resigned as non-executive chairman of Inix Technologies Holdings Bhd, a Bursa-listed company, in 2019, he failed to transfer shares worth RM6 million to a third party as agreed.
A video of Nicky hosting Wan to a grand reception in Kuala Lumpur characterised the tribalism and secret rules that revolve around the hypnotic pull of the 65-year-old Chinese crime lord.
Nicky seemingly wanted to build on his standing in the underbelly of society and saw the opportunity to capitalise on publicity during Wan’s visit.
It was easy: Wan tended to be a master of his own publicity, having famously given interviews to international news publications like Time and Newsweek.
By giving ‘royalty’ treatment to Wan, Nicky suggested that he was part of the estimated 20,000-member 14K Triad that is involved in criminal activities like drug and human trafficking, money laundering, corruption, bribery and contract murder worldwide.
The old-school underworld bosses, for whom secrecy and discretion were in the blood, would never have wanted such spotlight.
They knew fame meant trouble but Nicky must have felt he was invulnerable.
Nicky met Wan using the name of his “sifu” in Macau scams, Zhang Jiang, who is in a China prison for multiple crimes.
Wan, as founder of the Cambodia-based Hongmen World History and Culture Association, appointed Liow as its vice-president in 2019, lending credence to speculation that the Malaysian was being groomed for bigger things.
Both Wan and the association have been blacklisted by the US Treasury Department over suspected involvement in international organised crime and money laundering.
Was Nicky eyeing a stake in Wan’s shady US$15 billion project in the free-for-all enclave of Shwe Kokko in Myanmar?
He had the means: His assets were estimated at RM1 billion and he had over RM40mil in his personal accounts, based on information from Bank Negara.
Shwe Kokko, controlled by an ethnic Karen warlord who has made peace with the Myanmar military, has become a haven in particular for wayward Chinese investors in gambling and related online fraud operations.
Vanity, lavishness and below-average intelligence are usually a lethal combination. In Nicky’s case, they served as a severe lack of understanding boundaries due to his brashness.
As the manhunt for Nicky continues, his exploits have shown how criminal gangs run roughshod over the law amid an unstable legal system and corrupt law enforcement.
The way gangsters have been joining forces with business leaders and officials to create powerful syndicates demands a review of the entire law enforcement system in the country. FREE MALAYSIA TODAY
BERNAMA / FREE MALAYSIA TODAY