In response to an incident involving a family of Singaporeans who were told to give some “kopi money” to Johor customs officials, Johor Chief Minister Onn Hafiz Ghazi said he will “get the necessary authorities to investigate”.
The Johor chief minister said this in a comment on the Facebook post of local Chinese evening paper Shin Min Daily News (SMDN) which detailed the incident.
Saying that he takes the allegation seriously, he added that he hopes the Chinese newspaper can help with the investigation as well.
No one manning customs booth so they continued driving forward
According to SMDN, the family of six were driving to Johor Bahru at round 6:30pm on May 7 when they encountered a snag at Woodlands Checkpoint.
It was Mother’s Day eve and the family, consisting of a 42-year-old woman, her husband, their two children aged nine and 11, as well as her parents, had wanted to celebrate the occasion at Johor Bahru.
The woman, who goes by her husband’s surname Song, told SMDN that when their car arrived at the Johor checkpoint, someone removed a traffic cone and indicated to them to continue driving through.
When they reached the customs booth, however, no one was present.
The family had apparently thought that because it had been two years since they last drove to Johor, customs procedures on Malaysia’s side had changed.
After paying the toll fare via their Touch n’ Go card, and seeing the toll gate barrier opening as a result, they continued on their way.
Given a choice between paying a fine or settling the issue “privately”
When they subsequently encountered an officer at the checkpoint where checks on vehicles were conducted, they asked him why there was no need for their passports to be checked by an officer and stamped.
The officer then immediately told them that they could not continue passing through the checkpoint, and that they must drive to an office nearby to make up for the procedures that they had missed.
Following the instructions, Song went to the office with all six passports from the family.
According to her, an officer, who appeared to be around 30 years old, asked her a series of questions, and then told her that this was a “very serious offence”.
He then told her to wait outside the office while holding on to all the passports.
Thereafter, he walked out of the office, and after pulling Song and her husband to one side, he asked if they wanted to “settle this privately or get detained and pay a fine”.
The fine amount was allegedly RM10,000 (S$3,160).
But if the family chose to settle the issue privately, they simply had to pay RM100 (S$32) for each family member.
Bribe amount negotiated down to RM200
Song’s husband, 43, said when they were trying to negotiate with the officer for a lower price, the latter thought the amount was “too little”, and said his superior “would not agree to it”.
The woman’s husband also tried to reason with the customs officer, saying there was no one at the customs booth at the time.
However, the officer had responded by saying, “Are you sure there wasn’t anyone there?”, which prompted the couple to stop the conversation.
Subsequently, after deciding on a final amount of RM200 (S$63), they were instructed to stuff the cash in a passport, and go to the office to hand it over to the officer.
The officer then used his phone as a cover by putting the device and the cash together into his pocket.
According to Song’s husband, the officer, who was on the heavier side, wore a uniform, but had flip-flops on instead.
The Singaporean said he still remembers the name on the officer’s name tag.
Song said they knew that it was not right to ask for a bribe, but the officer had sounded “threatening” at the time, and accused them of crossing immigration illegally.
But considering that they had their elderly parents and young children with them, they relented and paid the alleged bribe after a series of “bargaining”.
Motorists should try to get assistance instead of driving forward
Malaysian assemblyman Andrew Chen, who once led a task force to look into traffic congestion issues at the Johor customs, told SMDN that anyone who enters Malaysia have to go through the usual procedures of having their passport checked and stamped.
He further said if there’s no one at the immigration counter, drivers would have to step out of their vehicles and seek an officer for assistance, instead of driving ahead.
Apart from the Song family, a similar incident had happened as well to a 32-year-old Singaporean woman, who told SMDN that she drove past the immigration counter after paying the toll fare as no one was manning the booth.
Like the Songs, she was told to go to “a small room” when an officer found that her passport was not stamped.
She was then told to either pay a fine of RM1,000 for “illegal immigration” or to settle the issue privately by paying RM100 (S$32).
She eventually chose the latter, but called the police the next day after she had returned to Singapore.
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Top image adapted via Onn Hafiz/Facebook & Wikipedia
Source: Mothership SG