State Immigration Director Noor Alam Khan said the syndicate, which is believed to be operating outside Sabah, appeared to be trying their luck in forging and selling those documents to their clients by choosing Sabah as the transit point.
The arrests of five foreigners at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here recently showed glaring attempts by the syndicate.
"There are three cases involving these five foreigners who attempted to use fake valid travel documents like the Malaysian passport to leave the country.
"The first case involved a 28-year-old Pakistani, Muhammad Nisar Khan, who was arrested and detained at Terminal 1 of KKIA on April 6 for possessing a fake Malaysian passport when he attempted to leave Sabah for Perth, Australia.
"Investigations revealed that Nisar had impersonated a Malaysian under the name of Muhammad Shahrul bin Fauzi on the fake Malaysian passport, while he has a valid Pakistan passport.
"Not only that, we also found the serial number of the Malaysian passport, No. A26664237, actually belonged to Halleyza binti Ibrahim who had lodged a police report on her lost passport in Kajang, Selangor on June 6, last year," he told a press conference at the Immigration Department office in the Federal Administrative Building Complex along Jalan Sulaman, here.
Also present were the department's enforcement head Ismail Ali and the department's investigation head under the enforcement division, Mastijah Masduki.
Noor Alam said Nisar, who is a cook here, was also booked for overstaying when his special pass expired on March 14, this year.
He added that Nisar also had a valid e-visa to enable him to go to Australia and work.
During the interrogation, Noor Alam said Nisar admitted he bought the fake Malaysian passport for RM15,000 from a syndicate.
"Nisar's case was resolved when he was charged and pleaded guilty in court on May 16.
"He was fined RM5,000 for the first offence of impersonating someone else in a travel document, an offence under Section 12(1)(b) of the Passport Act 1966.
"He was fined another RM12,000 in default four months' jail for overstaying, an offence under the Immigration Act 1959/63," he said.
In the second case, Noor Alam said two Turkish men - Kaval Osman, 27, and Karabulut Mehmet, 30 - were arrested and detained at Terminal 2 of KKIA on April 19 on suspicion of possessing fake endorsements from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on their social visit passes.
He said both arrived here from Johor Baru and were bound for Manila, Philippines.
"They were charged in the Sessions Court here on May 8. However, both pleaded not guilty under Section 56(1)(l) of the Immigration Act 1959/63 for possessing fake endorsements and have been further remanded pending their case to be re-mentioned on May 21, this year," he said.
To a question, Noor Alam said the Immigration officer noticed that the endorsement stickers had no reflection when scanned and the name KLIA was written as "KL International Airport", which was different from that issued by KLIA for foreigners.
In the third case, he said two Turkish men - Omer Butun, 37, and Ahmet Aydin, 2 - were arrested at Terminal 1 of KKIA before leaving for Kuala Lumpur on May 14.
"Both were nabbed when my officers suspected their Turkey passports to be fake, an offence under Section 12 of the Passport Act 1966.
"We are still waiting for verification from the Turkish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on the two dubious passports before taking further action," he said.
He said the department would continue to be firm and committed in foiling attempts of any foreigners believed using fake travel documents and using Sabah as a transit point.