Crime & Courts

Nine people who trespassed Sik forest reserve were involved in REE exploration

ALOR STAR: The nine individuals including five foreigners charged at the Baling Sessions Court today for trespassing into Rimba Teloi Forest Reserves in Sik on Sept 14, were involved in illegal exploration of rare earth elements (REE) minerals.

Kedah police chief Datuk Fisol Salleh said the illegal REE exploration activities conducted by the group in Compartment 35 of the forest reserve had no ties to any corporate entities.

"It is understood that their operations have been active for the past four months based on our initial investigations and these activities are still in their early stages.

"The REE exploration activities were conducted independent of any corporate entities and were carried out based on the individual capacity of the group's mastermind," he said in a press conference at the state police headquarters here today.

He said all suspects failed to provide the necessary permits for REE exploration and permission to enter the forest reserve.

"The foreign individuals possessed legal permits for other services in the country, but misused them for REE exploration.

"Samples of soil suspected to have been obtained from the forest reserve for REE detection were also confiscated."

Commenting further, Fisol warned that the police would take strict action against any illegal REE mining activities in the state.

Earlier today, the nine individuals, including five foreign nationals, were separately charged at the Sessions Court today with trespassing into the Rimba Teloi Forest Reserve in Sik on Sept 14.

According to the charge, Tho Wei Loon, 45, Chen Wei Ming, 45, Zarhabi Shaari and Abdul Halim Nawang, both 61, are charged with entering Compartment 35 of the forest reserves without a permit about 4.12pm on Sept 14.

The other five are a Chinese nationals and four Indonesias. They are Li Juemin, 49; Aswadi, 43; Dedy Junaidi, 40; Muhamad Zaenuri, 31; and Nasron, 51.

The charge was framed under Sub Section 47(1) of the National Forestry Act 1984 which carries a fine not more than RM10,000 or a jail term not more than three years, or both upon conviction.

All the accused pleaded not guilty and claimed trial when the charge was read to them before Judge Najwa Che Mat.

The court subsequently set the bail RM6,000 each for Wei Loon, Wei Ming, Zarhabi, Abdul Halim and Juemin with one surety.

The court also set the bail at RM7,000 with two sureties for Aswadi.

No bail was offered for Dedy Junaidi, Muhamad Zaenuri and Nasron.

Meanwhile, Wei Loon was also charged separately for illegally employing the four Indonesian men. The charge was filed under Section 55B of the Immigration Act 1959 which carries RM50,000 or in imprisonment not more than a year, or both, for each of the worker that he had employed.

Juemin was also slapped with a charge for flouting Regulation 38(b) of the Immigration Regulations 1963 for failing to comply with the Social Visit Pass for working at the site by taking and testing land samples during the raid.

The court subsequently fixed the bail at RM10,000 for Wei Loon and RM5,000 for Juemin subsequently, with one surety each.

Prosecution Officer Inspector Halina Othman prosecuted while lawyer Tan Yi Bin appeared for Wei Loon, Wei Ming and Juemin.

Abdul Halim was represented by lawyer Hairul Azam Hassan while Zarhabi was represented by lawyer Amnach a/l Ee Niam.

The four Indonesian nationals were not represented during the charge proceeding.

The court subsequently set Dec 3 for mention date.

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