TELUK INTAN, June 22 — Police have crippled a suspected human trafficking syndicate that was smuggling Indonesian migrants back to their home country.
This comes after they intercepted a cargo boat carrying 48 Indonesians as it was moving through the waters of the Bernam river on June 9.
The 48 migrants included 31 men, 16 women, and a two-year-old girl who were allegedly being transported to Tanjung Balai, Indonesia, from Bagan Lipas, near here.
Hilir Perak police chief ACP Wan Hassan Wan Ahmad said police intercepted the vessel after receiving information from the Rungkup police station.
“We made the arrests at around 6am, while the boat was one kilometre away from the shore. The passengers did not put up a fight but three men who were handling the boat jumped overboard,” he said at a press conference yesterday.
Further investigations led police to the arrest of eight suspected syndicate members who are believed to have been coordinating the illegal transportation of Indonesian migrants.
Wan Hassan said the eight male suspects included three locals, and were between 30 and 40 years old.
“They would offer their services for between RM400 and RM700 per person. The migrants who would take up these services came from all over the country, including Penang, Negri Sembilan and Selangor,” he said.
“Normally, the traffickers use a smaller boat to pick up the migrants from the shore before sending them to a larger boat moored out at sea. However, this time they used a large cargo boat to pick up their passengers.”
He said police were still investigating if the three individuals who jumped overboard were among the eight men arrested.
Wan Hassan said trafficking activities had decreased in Hilir Perak after a 13-metre-long wooden boat carrying 80 migrants capsized in Hutan Melintang last September. The boat was also heading to Tanjung Balai.
“After the accident, enforcement and monitoring activities picked up so there was less smuggling movement.
“We believe that the demand for transport to Indonesia picked up because of the coming Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration as many migrants wanted to return home for the holidays,” he said.
Wan Hasan said some of the migrants had entered the country legally before their passports expired.
Others, he said, had their passports held by their respective employers.
He added that the migrants did not sustain any injuries.
During their investigations, police seized 13 Indonesian passports, seven pieces of paper used as tickets, two Isuzu lorries, RM854 and 295,000 Indonesian rupiah.
Wan Hassan said all of the detainees had been remanded for 28 days until July 7, under Section 4(5) of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and were being held at the Hilir Perak police district headquarters lock-up.
He said the case was being investigated for under Section 26A of the Human Trafficking and Anti-Immigrant Smuggling Act, as well as Sections 6(1)(c) and 15(1)(c) of the Immigration Act.
“If found guilty, the suspects could face up to 15 years’ jail and a fine. The migrants could face up to five years’ jail and whipping,” Wan Hassan said.