KUALA LUMPUR: The Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2024, aimed at amending the Penal Code (Act 574) to combat online crimes using ‘mule’ accounts for online fraud, was passed in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul, presiding over the session, announced that the bill received majority support.

The proposed amendments include two main aspects: new provisions for offences related to mule accounts and definitions of ‘financial instrument’ and ‘payment instrument’ as well as introducing four new sections.

Earlier, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Institutional Reform) Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, when presenting the bill for its second reading, said losses from online fraud crimes over the past three years totalled RM2,651,398,000.34.

Through the amendment, the MADANI Government was seeking bipartisan support for these amendments to enhance public safety and well-being, she said.

Azalina said currently, existing legislation does not provide for account owners who allow their bank accounts to be used by others without authority or lawful purpose to be prosecuted.

“As such, the gaps in existing laws and the urgent need to protect all Malaysians from falling victim to online fraud crimes necessitate amendments to Act 574. These amendments aim to comprehensively and effectively combat online fraud, particularly involving mule accounts,” she said.

She said various measures by authorities, including the Royal Malaysia Police, to curb online fraud syndicates through strengthened enforcement, operations, arrests, and prosecution of offenders, had been taken.

Azalina pointed out that fraud activities facilitated by mule accounts serve as temporary repositories for victims’ funds before transferring to other accounts and investigations often reveal that these accounts were either ‘leased’ or granted access to third parties, complicating law enforcement efforts.

“Investigators also face challenges when account owners are unaware of the identities of the third-party users who have misused their bank accounts for illegal money transfers,” she added.