Police to start using preventive detention powers against people smugglers

Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the police have decided to take more stern actions by investigating people-smuggling syndicates under Sosma. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the police have decided to take more stern actions by investigating people-smuggling syndicates under Sosma. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — Bukit Aman Criminal Investigations Department director Datuk Huzir Mohamed said today that the police will begin invoking the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or Sosma against people-smuggling syndicates.

Huzir said this decision to use the law allowing detentions without trial was because previous offenders were found to have resumed their smuggling activities after they served their sentences.

“Looking at how previous punishments were not able to stop these syndicate members from resuming smuggling activities, we have decided to take sterner action by investigating the offenders under Sosma,” said Huzir during a press conference.

He was referring to previous offenders who were charged under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (Atipsom) and Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), served their sentences and resumed smuggling activities under a different syndicate name.

“The sentencing in three cases in Perak, Johor and Kedah previously did not seem effective, which saw the syndicate members continue to break the law.

“So now we have decided to enforce laws under Sosma and will investigate these syndicate members under organised crime laws,” he added.

Huzir cited a smuggling incident in Hutan Melintang, Perak in 2015 which took the lives of 60 Indonesians when a boat they were on sank.

The Indonesians were on their way back to their home country, he added.

He said the syndicate members were then part of the “Pak Yus” ring, which saw 17 arrested, two investigated under Section 26a of the Atipsom and nine more under Poca.

“But when they had served their sentences, police intelligence found that the syndicate members were still in operation and continued smuggling activities under a different syndicate name — ‘syndicate Halim’, where we recently managed to arrest 18 of their members and are tracing three more,” said Huzir.

He cited two more smuggling cases: one in Johor in 2016 and more recently on June 9 in Kedah. Both involved syndicates attempting to smuggle out migrants to their home country through boats via non-permitted channels.

“During the recent Covid-19 operations, the police arrested 40 syndicate members in Johor who were still conducting the smuggling activities,” he said.

He added that there were 65 people involved who will all be charged under Sosma for organised crimes. The particular legal section bars bail pending trial.

He said based on these cases, the police are of the opinion that past sentences are not effective deterrents in human smuggling, noting that it is a “very lucrative” trade.

According to Huzir, each of the migrant being smuggled are required to pay between RM1,200 and RM1,400, depending on the pick-up and drop-off points.

Referring to the June 9 landing in Langkawi, Kedah involving over 260 Rohingya, Huzir said police believe their boat to have been deliberately damaged when the smuggling syndicate lost contact with their ground contacts in Malaysia numbering 70.

“We believe they lost contact with 70 of the Rohingya in the country who act as agents were arrested during our recent operations,” he said, adding that 21 will be charged.

Huzir said police have launched three operations since January 1 in a bid to prevent illegal immigrants from entering the country, adding that some of them could even be harbouring the dreaded Covid-19 virus.

He said police stepped up their operations during the Hari Raya period, finding that illegal entry of migrant workers were usually heightened this time.

“Usually during Hari Raya, the migrant workers will return to their home country to celebrate Hari Raya.

“Based on information received, the migrants will return after Hari Raya to work in their respective sector previously,” he explained.

He said police acted quickly between June 4 and 7 to arrest the smuggling ring members, their captains and agents who are the ones to receive the illegal immigrants.

He also revealed that from three phases of operations, 135 cases are being investigated under the smuggling of migrant law and four cases under Sosma.

Syndicate members being investigated include Malaysians, Indonesians, Filipinos, Bangladeshis and Myanmar nationals.

“The police will also look into the possibilities in investigating the syndicates under the AMLA (Anti-Money Laundering Act 2001) to identify illegal possession of the syndicates.

“Under Section 4 of the Act, the police will confiscate properties owned by the syndicate members,” said Huzir.

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