PUTRAJAYA: Former Perlis Customs Department director Datuk Mohd Pudzi Man revealed that the agency could not act on human trafficking camps in Wang Kelian because they only received “vague information” on the matter.
Pudzi, the 29th witness in the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) probing the Wang Kelian human trafficking incident, told the panel that the department’s intelligence team, together with the Anti-Smuggling Unit, had difficulty in obtaining actionable intelligence.
This, he said, was despite him urging his officers to collect as much information as possible.
“We only received vague information on Wang Kelian, that there was a possibility of vehicles transporting them (illegal immigrants). The information we received was too ambiguous to conduct an operation. We were afraid that if we conducted a raid, there wouldn’t be a case,” he said on the 10th day of the RCI.
Pudzi added that they had “issues” obtaining intelligence on migrants, and said it was easier to obtain information on the smuggling of contraband such as drugs and firecrackers.
“We found it difficult to acquire intelligence on migrants, unlike tracking down the smuggling of taxable or prohibited goods. Even if we did receive information (on migrants), it was very little and very vague.
“When I was in Perlis, I only received information about illegal immigrants on a small scale, no concrete information on the trafficking of migrants.”
Now retired, Pudzi was a Customs deputy director in Putrajaya after his stint in Perlis. He was the head of the department in Perlis from 2011 until 2016.
Pudzi said he only learnt about the Wang Kelian camp when it was reported in the media.
“It was shocking. We did not expect the situation to be that big because before that there were only few cases (of illegal immigrants).”
Another witness, former Immigration Department director Mohd Amir Othman, said local enforcement agencies had difficulty tracking down human trafficking syndicates due to the refusal of victims to cooperate.
The 30th witness of the RCI said the illegal immigrants conspired with their agents and syndicates to protect their identities and not reveal information.
“Throughout my experience working in the department, we found it hard to receive cooperation from victims when we wanted to conduct our probes.
“This is why it is hard for us to apprehend the ‘tekongs’ (those involved in syndicates), because the illegal immigrants conspire with them,” he said, adding that they would be taught by syndicates on how to answer the authorities if they were arrested.
Amir also noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card was an “attraction” for illegal immigrants to enter the country.
These illegal immigrants, he said, wanted the UNHCR card so that they could move about freely, holding refugee status.
“With the card, they are free to move about. According to the law, UNHCR card holders are not allowed to work, but if they do, they cannot be arrested,” he said.
The RCI seven-member panel comprises former chief justice Tun Arifin Zakaria as chairman; former inspector-general of police Tan Sri Norian Mai (deputy chairman); former chief prosecutor Datuk Noorbahri Baharuddin; former Suhakam chief commissioner Tan Sri Razali Ismail; former head of research at the Attorney-General’s Chambers Datuk Junaidah Abdul Rahman; former Malaysian ambassador to Thailand Datuk Nazirah Hussin; and, former Public Accounts Committee deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw.
The conducting officers are Khairul Anuar Abd Halim and Saiful Hazmi Mohd Saad.