British national Richard Huckle is seen after his arrest on multiple charges of sexual abuse of children, in a handout image provided by Britain's National Crime Agency June 2, 2016. NCA/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's police chief said on Thursday that British officials did not hand over enough information to investigate convicted British paedophile Richard Huckle, as questions arose over the Southeast Asian country's handling of the case.
Huckle, 30, was given 22 life sentences in a London court on Monday after admitting 71 charges of sex abuse against children in Malaysia and Cambodia from the ages of six months to 12.
Malaysia faces increasing pressure to explain the lack of action after British officials said they told their counterparts in Kuala Lumpur about his suspected behaviour more than 18 months ago. Malaysians have expressed outrage on social media over the apathy shown by law enforcement and government officials.
Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed that authorities were informed of Huckle and his suspected behaviour before his arrest in 2014, despite earlier comments from other police officials that they had only been told in April this year.
But British officials were unable to provide them with more details regarding Huckle's victims and activities, Khalid said, adding that Malaysia's death penalty made it difficult for British police to cooperate fully.
"That was our main obstacle when dealing with European countries, because by law, they are unable to cooperate with us because we carry out capital punishment," he said.
"When his case went to trial, it was only then that we knew that it was 23 victims, and that it involved our citizens and only then we could start tracing them," Khalid said.
Huckle is believed to have targeted nearly 200 children in Malaysia and Cambodia over a span of nine years, posing as a photographer, English teacher and philanthropist to gain access to impoverished families.
Khalid said he would ask that Malaysian officers be allowed to interrogate Huckle in prison in order to get more details on his crimes and victims.
A Malaysian NGO has started holding workshops on sexual abuse for children of a poor Indian community, once a haunt of Huckle's.
"Now that this case is over, I hope that the British authorities will no longer hold back any information from us," he said.
He did not rule the possibility of extradition, despite the fact that Huckle had already been convicted and sentenced.
"When we have enough evidence and information to make an extradition application, that is one of the options we are looking at," Khalid said.
(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Nick Macfie)