KUALA LUMPUR: Three Japanese women and a Spanish man have been arrested in a raid on a Malaysian cosplay festival for participating without the proper permits, immigration authorities said Tuesday (Jul 2).
The role-playing craze - where enthusiasts imitate characters from anime series, comics and video games, many drawn from Japanese pop culture - has been growing in popularity in the Southeast Asian country.
The four foreigners were taking part in an event called "Geek Summit" on Sunday hosted by the city of Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, when immigration officials raided the event following a complaint.
"They came into Malaysia on tourist visas, but they were dressed up and performing without permission," senior immigration official Mohamad Shukri Nawi told AFP.
Foreigners wanting to take part in arts performances in Malaysia need permission from a government agency.
Authorities did not know which characters the performers were dressed up as when they were detained.
The four, aged between 28 and 41, are being held by immigration authorities.
If charged with breaking immigration laws, they face being fined and deported, Mohamad Shukri said.
In an online statement, Geek Summit organisers confirmed the arrests. They added that the event had all the valid permits from the Shah Alam City Council and the Royal Malaysia Police.
"All our international guests did not perform on stage, thus were not bound to the requirements stipulated by PUSPAL to acquire a professional visa for our international guests.
"Notably, there was an incident which happened two months ago, so we were very cautious on getting everything done accordingly, and we were repetitively reassured by the officer in PUSPAL confirming that no special visa is needed in this case," they added.
PUSPAL refers to the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes.
Geek Summit organisers added that there was a "false report" made by an individual, giving the Immigration Department of Malaysia "no choice but to follow protocol, resulting in a questionable detain" of the four individuals.
"Our legal team is tirelessly working on rectifying this matter with the respective Embassies with support from Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, and Ministry of Youth & Sports to resolve this as soon as possible," they added.
It is not the first time a cosplay event has fallen foul of the authorities in the conservative, Muslim-majority country.
In March, foreign participants from Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong were arrested at a Kuala Lumpur cosplay festival for failing to have the correct work permits.