Organised crime - Our research - University of Derby

Coming face-to-face with the Chinese Triads

The subject for senior lecturer Kassim Noor Mohamed’s PhD — awarded in 2011 — was kidnapping for ransom, which drew heavily on his experiences and contacts made during his 21-year career with the Royal Malaysia Customs (RMC).

As a customs officer his duties included monitoring some of the most notorious organised crime groups in South East Asia, with some of his confidential informers being members of the Chinese Triads crime group, who were running kidnapping-for-ransom operations.

Directly interviewing kidnappers

To gather evidence for his PhD, Kassim was given unique access by the Royal Malaysia Police’s specialist kidnapping squad, to members of the most prolific kidnapping group in South East Asia. This access had never previously been allowed. Those who were interviewed had never been caught by the Police and had never allowed themselves to be interviewed. 

What Kassim learned

Through his interviews and close contact with group members, Kassim gained rare insights into the world of organised crime:

  • The kidnappers always took time to choose the right target, which was the result of the group’s own risk assessment, and their own intelligence and surveillance activity.
  • Victims were generally also involved in criminal activities and were chosen because their families had access to a ready supply of cash and would not report the kidnapping.
  • Members of this group were outwardly very respectable family men, often with children in good schools. They didn’t identify themselves as Triads but saw themselves as being members of a benevolent community, which funded the building of new schools and orphanages.
  • For the kidnappers the operation was no more than a business transaction – the ransom was never less than £1m.
  • Victims were always well treated and released unharmed.

The impact of this research 

The outcome of Kassim’s research had a direct impact on the Malaysian police’s response to kidnapping situations. With Kassim, the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) evaluated the modus operandi of the organised crime groups and looked at the kidnapping squad’s standard operating procedures.

As a result of a SWOT analysis and the results of Kassim’s research, the RMP have since made improvements to their operating procedures.

In 2011 Kassim’s thesis was accepted without any corrections or revisions and he was awarded his PhD.

Kassim has since been invited by the RMP to present lectures on anti-corruption, which attracted the interest of the governments in Indonesia and the Philippines. The RMP also want him to conduct workshops in Sabah – a hot spot for abductions – to look at the practicalities of handling kidnapping situations. Kassim will also be presenting guest lectures to police officers in Malaysia.

Read more about how we've been helping the Royal Malaysia Police 

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Project Manager (Malaysia) for the International Policing and Justice Institute, Dr Kassim Noor Mohamed