Pirate taxi touts suit up in bid to fool authorities

A SPAD official inspects illegal taxis during Ops Parasit. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
A SPAD official inspects illegal taxis during Ops Parasit. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

SEPANG, Dec 7 — Illegal taxi touts are taking it up a notch to avoid arrest at KL International Airport (KLIA) and klia2 by blending in with the public.

Some would go to the extent of wearing formal clothes to give the impression that they were official representatives of a hotel or tour agency, among others.

First-time visitors to Malaysia, who are clueless about their activities, become easy prey and end up having to pay exorbitant prices for their services.

Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) enforcement director, Datuk Che Hasni Che Ahmad, said the touts were getting smarter but the commission’s enforcement team were not fooled.

The touts, he said, would disguise as tour guides, SIM card vendors, trolley assistants and even hotel officials.

“They prey on foreign passengers who are new to the country and have no idea how to get about,” he said.

“Some would even dress up in a suit and tie to look more presentable.”

The touts sometimes work in pairs — a frontman would hunt for passengers while the other drives. They often ferry their passengers in unlicenced personal vehicles.

Some of the touts are licenced taxi drivers who try to beat the system by approaching potential passengers directly instead of going through the coupon system.

Che Hasni said the commission was aware of the tactics and would increase their efforts to apprehend the touts.

“We are monitoring their movement every day and will take action once we’ve identified and verified the individuals. It could be a day, a week or even a month, so be warned,” he said.

“One day they will get caught. It is only a matter of time.”

Nine frontmen and six drivers have been arrested from December 1 up till Friday, and the licenced taxi drivers have had their licences revoked.

Since January, a total of 24 drivers and 74 frontmen were arrested under SPAD’s “Ops Parasit”.

Illegal taxi operators would be charged under Section 16 of the Land Transportation Act whereby a person may be fined up to RM10,000, or imprisoned for two years, or both.

The frontmen would be charged under Section 205 of the same Act, and could be fined up to RM50,000, or imprisoned for five years, or both.

Touts who operate alone risk being charged under both Sections.

On Friday night, SPAD conducted an operation at the airports and nabbed three touts.

Canadian tourist Kuda Mutama, 27, who had just arrived from Hong Kong, was roped in to give evidence against one of the touts.

Mutama said it was his first visit to Malaysia and he did not know he was being cheated after he was asked to pay RM250 for a one-way trip to Pudu in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

“I was completely caught by surprise when some people pulled us over. I thought I was going to be kidnapped or arrested.

“They were dressed casually and I had no idea they were actually undercover officers (from SPAD).”

He said after the officers showed their badges, he felt obliged to cooperate and assisted them with the arrest of the illegal taxi driver.

“I feel assured and safe that the authorities are taking action on such scams,” he said.

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