Officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) smelled a rat when the young driver was sweating profusely in spite of the chilly air blasting from the air-conditioner in his car. When asked to open the car boot for routine inspection, his excuse that the car boot could not be opened, raised the officers’ eyebrows. It was more than apparent that the Malaysian Chinese brought trouble, but here comes the twist – he was delivering double trouble.
It was a busy evening at the Tuas Checkpoint. The officers had been working tirelessly for hours clearing the peak hour traffic. Workers and travelers were in a rush to hit home to spend time with their loved ones. At about 7.30pm, a Malaysia-registered saloon car pulled into the checkpoint for departure clearance. The officers noticed that the young driver was fidgety and kept averting their gaze when spoken to. His nervous demeanors was more apparent when the officers requested him to open the car boot for inspection.
He insisted that the mechanism in the boot was out of order and that the storage compartment could not be opened. Not convinced, the quick thinking officers then asked to check the boot through the rear passenger seat. That was when the man knew his game was up. Two Indian men were found hiding in the car boot when the officers lowered the rear back seats. The driver and his two illegal passengers were immediately placed under arrest.
Double trouble taking a back seat
When questioned, the 21-year-old Chinese driver confessed to abetting the illegal departure of the two Indian immigration offenders. Being in financial difficulties, he fell bait to the offer from a Malaysian man whom he addressed as “Boss” to do the job for RM800. He was handed the car in Johor Bahru and told to pick up the illegal foreigners near a MRT station in the western part of Singapore. Thereafter, he drove to a quiet spot and told the two ‘passengers’ to hide in the car boot via the rear passenger seat
Preliminary interviews also revealed that the Indian nationals, aged 31 and 34 years, had sought help from unknown agents and paid them fees of S$1,000 and S$1,200 each for the illicit arrangements to leave Singapore. Their plans went to naught when the trained eyes of ICA officers saw through the ploy and thwarted the illegal attempt to cross Singapore’s borders.
The trio is currently under investigations by the ICA. The car used in the commission of the offence has also been detained by the authority. The ICA takes a serious view of attempts by foreigners to overstay, enter or depart Singapore illegally. Under the Immigration Act (Cap 133), the penalties for overstaying or illegal entry are a jail term of up to six months plus a minimum of three strokes of the cane, while the penalties for illegal departure is a fine of up to $2,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both.