By Nik Nurfaqih Nik Wil
KUALA LUMPUR: A Jordanian suspected to be the kingpin of a human trafficking syndicate is believed to have used Malaysia many times as a transit for smuggling Indonesian women as ‘modern slaves’ to Middle Eastern countries.
He has been arrested three times but never charged with human trafficking although 126 women whom he was believed to have brought from Indonesia were found locked up in an apartment here while their visas were being processed.
Instead he was only charged with wrongful confinement under Section 342 of Penal Code, holding passports without lawful authority under Section 12(1)(f) of Passport Act, and allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the premise that he had interest to supervise under Section 55E of Immigration Act.
He was jailed 53 days for the first charge and fined RM10,000. For the second and third charges, he was fined a total of RM12,000.
In contrast, an offender under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (ATIPSOM) Act can be jailed between three and 20 years and fined up to RM1 million.
Why was the man known as Mario to some of his victims not charged under the ATIPSOM Act?
“He has been very clever. He was careful to avoid elements of the ATIPSOM Act,” said Indonesian embassy counsellor of consular affairs Dino Nurwahyudin.
“The elements of forced labour and deception for the purpose of exploitation were not present, or could not be proven, in his case.”
The key of the apartment where the women were locked up was held by his wife who has since been arrested in Indonesia, with the police getting information from some of the victims.
“Thus, the authorities could not connect him with the women or the apartment,” said Dino.
Police rescued 25 women from the apartment in June 2013, twenty-one in January 2014, fifty-three in November 2014 and twenty-seven in August 2015. All of them have been deported to Indonesia.
Police believed that the Jordanian left the country after serving his sentence, but Dino said the man could have his henchmen still working here.
“We are working closely with the Malaysian police to put a stop to their activities,” Dino said.
He also said that Indonesian missions in the Middle East had reported that many smuggled women were being exploited after they were promised well-paying jobs.
We are doing our best to bring them home,” he added.