4 Oct 2016

Australians arrested over Malaysian 'budgie smugglers'

9:44 pm on 4 October 2016

A group of Australians who were arrested in Malaysia for stripping down to their swimwear - so-called "budgie smugglers" featuring the Malaysian flag - could face charges, police say.

The nine men were celebrating at a Formula One race near Kuala Lumpur.

Spectators - reported to be Australian tourists - with swimwear featuring the Malaysian flag during the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang on 2 October.

Spectators - reported to be Australian tourists - with swimwear featuring the Malaysian flag celebrate at the Malaysia Grand Prix in Sepang, near Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday. Photo: AFP

A police spokesman in Kuala Lumpur told the ABC they hoped to charge the group under section 504 of the penal code, which carries a maximum two-year jail term for intentional insult with the intent to provoke a breach of the peace.

The minimum penalty for that charge is a fine.

The men, reportedly aged between 25 and 29, were pictured during post-race celebrations last weekend wearing only swimwear that featured the Malaysian flag.

Pictures of them celebrating in a circle with their pants around their ankles were widely shared on social media. They were holding up an Australian flag, while wearing the Malaysian-themed swimwear with the words "budgy smuggler" across the back.

Video footage also showed the men drinking from shoes - an act known as a "shoey", which is a celebration commonly seen in motorsports.

Malaysia's Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the men were acting with a political motive.

"We open our doors to tourists, we try to treat them as well as we can, sometimes even better than our own people, but when they come here with the intention to commit indecent acts to embarrass us I think that's not how visitors should respond to our good treatment," he said.

The men, including a staffer from Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne's office, have been receiving consular assistance.

Jack Walker, an advisor to Mr Pyne in his capacity as minister, holds a high-level security clearance allowing him to access top secret material.

He previously worked for a company founded by New South Wales Liberal powerbroker Michael Photios.

The former army reservist has also worked for Macquarie Bank, according to his online profile.

A spokeswoman from Mr Pyne's office told the ABC: "This matter is being handled appropriately by the Australian High Commissioner. Until we have a clearer picture of the process at hand it would be unwise to comment further".

The deputy public prosecutor would make the final decision on whether to lay charges.

Police have said if the men were charged, they could appear in court next Monday.

Malaysia, which is a majority Muslim country, has strict rules on any display of public indecency and foreign offenders are typically issued a fine before being deported.