KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 ― A Pakistan citizen today pleaded guilty to giving a RM12,500 bribe to an immigration officer to arrange for 21 foreigners who had overstayed in Malaysia to slip out via the KLIA airport without having to face legal action.
Muhammad Irfan, 34, was unrepresented but said he understood Bahasa Malaysia and the charges read out to him.
With both the main charge and the alternative charge read out to him, Irfan chose to plead guilty to the alternative charge which carried lower penalties.
Under both the main and alternative charges, he was accused of having on November 16 between 3.25pm and 3.32pm given a RM12,500 bribe to a KLIA Immigration Department’s entry point control unit officer, who is also a Malaysian government agent, in a vehicle in front of a restaurant in Precinct 8, Putrajaya as a reward for the latter to help 21 foreign citizens to return to their home countries without having legal action taken on them for their overstaying offences.
The main charge was brought under Section 17(b) of the MACC Act which carried a heavier penalty of a maximum 20-year jail term and a fine of five times the amount of the bribe or RM10,000 whichever is higher. Section 17(b) relates to the offence of corruptly giving or offering gratification as an inducement or reward for doing or for not doing any action, among other things.
The alternative charge was brought under Section 214 of the Penal Code, which among other things covers the offence of giving or offering any gratification or gifts to any person, for the latter to conceal an offence or to screen any person from legal punishment for any offence or not taking action against any person for the purpose of bringing the person to legal punishment.
The maximum imprisonment under Section 214 differs according to the maximum jail term for the offences sought to be concealed or to prevent legal punishment from being taken.
The penalty applicable in Irfan’s case under Section 214 is imprisonment of up to one-fourth of the longest term of the imprisonment provided for the immigration offence or fine or both. In Irfan’s case, the maximum jail term would have been 15 months under Section 214 as compared to the maximum 20-year jail under Section 17(b).
According to the facts of the case that was read out in court, Irfan had on November 15 via WhatsApp contacted the immigration officer to ask for the latter's help to release 20 Pakistan citizens and one Bangladesh citizen who had overstaying offences to return to their home countries through KLIA and also offering via Whatsapp a bribe amount to the latter.
Based on the facts, the immigration officer on November 16 lodged an official complaint with the MACC regarding the offering of the bribe.
The immigration officer and Irfan then met on November 16 in the officer's car in front of a restaurant in Precinct 8, Putrajaya on November 16 afternoon, with Irfan then giving the RM12,500 bribe to the immigration officer. The immigration officer had counted the money upon receiving it from Irfan.
The MACC, which witnessed handover of the funds, then arrested Irfan and seized the RM12,500 upon his giving of the money to the immigration officer.
Also according to the facts of the case, MACC’s investigations showed that Irfan had been an agent for foreigners and carried out such activities since October 2020.
The bundle of RM12,500 cash in denominations of RM20, RM50 and RM100 was counted in court today, with Irfan verifying that he had given these cash on November 16 to the immigration officer.
Seen wearing a grey and white short-sleeved collared shirt and a face mask, Irfan said he has been living in Malaysia for 10 years using a spouse visa and is married to a Malaysian with four children, repeatedly confirming to the judge that he understood the proceedings.
Throughout the proceedings, Sessions Court judge Rozina Ayob took great care to ensure that Irfan understood what was being said in court, and also explained what was being said.
In pleading for a lower sentence, Irfan said he works as a cloths seller and that he does not know the laws in Malaysia.
Noting that he was told by the immigration officer that he could send foreigners back to their countries, Irfan said he did not know if this was the right method or not, further saying that the MACC later arrested him.
“Yes, I did pay the money, but I don't know if it was correct or not, when the MACC arrested me, only then I know this is not the correct way,” he said in BM.
The judge however pointed out that not knowing or ignorance of the laws is not an excuse, further receiving confirmation from Irfan that he did ask the immigration officer's help to release the 20 Pakistan citizens and one Bangladesh citizen and that he knew the 21 foreigners had overstayed.
Irfan said this was his first offence and that he had attended court today personally, noting that he was the sole breadwinner for his family in Malaysia and his family in Pakistan.
Irfan also said his wife had just given birth two days ago with the child's birth registration yet to be handled, and that his spouse visa was until November 29 and he has a December 18 appointment with the Immigration Department for his visa matters.
Deputy public prosecutor Mahadi Abdul Jumaat highlighted the severity of the case when asking for jail and fine on Irfan.
“The accused in this case is very fortunate because he was offered an alternative charge, but I ask the court to consider that this is a case of public interest.
“Because this case involves national security and sovereignty, and the accused in this case is a foreigner who dared to jeopardise matters relating to national sovereignty with the process to release 21 illegal immigrants who overstayed in this country, and as a lesson to the accused and also as a deterrent and message to the public, we at the prosecution ask for imprisonment and fine to be meted out on the accused to reflect the seriousness of this case,” he said.
The judge then handed down a 30-day jail sentence on Irfan from today, as well as a fine of RM10,000 or a further 30-day jail if Irfan is unable to pay.
The judge also ordered that the RM12,500 bribe be confiscated and forfeited by the Malaysian government and be deposited into the country’s consolidated funds.
Rozina told Irfan that she hoped he “insaf” or repents and learns from his mistake, with Irfan saying that he understood.
“I only want to see you here once, no more,” she said, with Irfan then replying: “Ok, insya-Allah.”
Irfan’s wife was also seen inside the courtroom.
Irfan is one of those nabbed in the special sting operation Ops Selat which busted a syndicate involving immigration officers. Luxury cars namely a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Ford Mustang, a Range Rover and an Audi were reportedly seized during the operation.
On November 28, national news agency Bernama reported that 65 individuals had been arrested under Ops Selat, involving 39 immigration officers, 17 agents and nine civilians.
In another courtroom before Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi, Bangladesh citizen Ahmmed Md Rana was presented to have charges read out against him over a similar alleged corrupt act.
When met by reporters, Mahadi however said that no plea was recorded after charges were read out to the Bangladesh citizen, as the latter did not understand Bahasa Malaysia. He was also not represented by a lawyer.
Mahadi said the case will be mentioned again on December 14 for the charges to be read out again but with the presence of a Bangladesh interpreter, noting that the court has fixed bail of RM10,000 with a guarantor to secure his attendance then.
It is understood that the Bangladesh citizen was also one of those arrested as part of Ops Selat.
Earlier, immigration officer Mohd Al-Ridhuan Ahmad Zaini pleaded not guilty to 17 corruption charges over his alleged receiving of bribes totalling RM21,500 in exchange for helping foreigners who had committed immigration offences to leave Malaysia via the KLIA2 airport without having to face the law.
Mohd Al-Ridhuan, who is also understood to have been nabbed under Ops Selat, claimed trial when the charges were read out to him before judge Rozina.