Tuhan Harun: Cult leader or money launderer extraordinaire?

Malaysia Chronicle/November 14, 2013

Kuantan -- Legally, his net worth is zero. But that hasn't stopped Harun Mat Saat, the leader of the deviant sect "Tuhan Harun", from living it up from the millions that he has been illegally rolling in.

Known to his followers as "Tuhan Harun", the 47-year-old -- aside from being able to enjoy his immense wealth, a jetsetting lifestyle and a sustained flow of monies sourced by his loyal followers -- is also blessed with incredible luck.

Having successfully evaded arrest since 2009 for failure to turn up in court to face charges under the Anti-Money Laundering Act and Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989, he probably thought his luck had run out when he was arrested by the Pahang Islamic Religious Department in April, along with tens of his followers.

However, a serious breakdown in the judiciary's communications system practically allowed Bank Negara Malaysia's most wanted man to simply walk away.

Loophole was exploited

He was released on a RM15,000 bail in two sureties after pleading not guilty on April 24 to 11 charges, including for disseminating deviant teachings and ridiculing Islam.

He was supposed to turn up for the re-mention of his case on Tuesday. His first no-show in court was on Aug 20.

The Kuantan Syariah Lower Court yesterday issued a warrant of arrest against him for failing to turn up for case management for the second time.

Pahang police chief Datuk Sharifuddin Ab Ghani attributed this slip-up to the lack of communication and the separation of legal jurisdiction.

"Syariah and civil cases are two separate systems, and there is no way for one side to know what the other is doing.

"Perhaps the syariah court was not aware that Harun had long been a wanted man," he told the New Straits Times.

Illegal deposit-taking

Prosecutors, meanwhile said there had been many cases of individuals wanted by the law who got away because of this weakness in the system.

"The link between the two is weak, so we can expect this to happen again.

"In this case, we could have netted him, but he got away," a senior prosecutor said.

Harun made full use of his freedom as he evaded arrest, and even branched out to Brunei, where he allegedly conned some 5,000 people there into investing RM211.549 million through Kelab Taqwa Malaysia (KTM), which is owned by Dina Sdn Bhd, a company he was involved with.

This, despite companies he was involved with being prosecuted for accepting deposits illegally in Kota Baru and Kuala Lumpur.

The company came under BNM scrutiny in 2008 and was raided on suspicion of conducting illegal deposit-taking and money laundering activities.

Deviant sect a front for money laundering?

Authorities believe that the deviant sect Harun leads is a vehicle for him to continue raking in funds. This, they said, was because it had become impossible for him to run operations that were legal.

"We believe he is now banking on the 'black economy' to generate income, and 'Tuhan Harun' is one such channel," they said.

The NST yesterday checked out the sect leader's mansion, in the exclusive area of Section 12 in Shah Alam, where Harun and his family led a reclusive life.

The sprawling three-storey house, with a swimming pool in the backyard, was, however, empty.

Those in the neighbourhood said they knew little about the family. They only noticed when Harun and his family vacated the mansion two years ago.

It is learnt that Harun, originally from Kelantan, was last seen in Shah Alam before going missing after making his bail for his syariah case.

House sold off

A neighbour, who only wanted to be known as Ahmad, said they knew that Harun became a wanted man when his illicit business operations came under the authorities' scrutiny.

"When he was staying here, many noticed that he was constantly receiving visitors, who sometimes came in droves in posh cars ... but he always kept his head down and refrained from making any contact.

"The house was sold just about three months ago, but he did come back to the house several times after he abandoned it in 2011," he said, adding that the new house owner had yet to move in.

"In August, a new owner took over but only comes to the house on weekends to tidy up the place," Ahmad said.

Another neighbour, who declined to be named, said she did not know Harun personally, but knew that Harun claimed to be royalty when he bought the mansion. Additional reporting by Khairah N. Karim and Hani Shamira Shahrudin.

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