Crime & Courts

Filipino gets five years for smuggling countrymen into Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A Filipino was sentenced to five years imprisonment by the High Court here for smuggling eight immigrants, all from the Philippines to Sabah.

Pocowan, 65, pleaded guilty before judge Faridz Gohim Abdullah today.

He admitted smuggling seven men and a woman aged between 18 and 59 to Sabah via an unregistered pump boat on Aug 1, at 10pm, near Tg Simpang Mengayau.

The offence under Section 26A of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants (ATIPSOM) Act 2007 provides for a jail term of up to 20 years or a fine or both, upon conviction.

The facts of the case stated that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) spotted the unregistered pump boat, about 1.4 nautical miles from Tg Simpang Mengayau Kudat.

During inspection, MMEA found nine people including the skipper were on the boat. All of them failed to produce valid travel documents which led to their arrest.

A thorough investigation revealed that the accused as the skipper of the pump boat had smuggled the eight migrants directly from Sibogo Island, Philippines to Sabah, Malaysia.

It was also revealed that five of the migrants were each paid 2500 Philippine pesos for boat fare, while two other migrants were not charged because they were the accused's relatives. Another migrant owes the accused the boat fare of 2500 Philippine pesos.

In mitigation, the unrepresented accused, through a Bajau language interpreter, asked for leniency saying that he had a health problem.

In reply, deputy public prosecutor of Sabah and Labuan MMEA Nurun Nazifah Muhammad Iyen Atim asked for a deterrent sentence taking into consideration the gravity of the offence as a threat to the safety and security of the country.

She also highlighted the rampancy of the offence in Sabah waters which leads to the influx of illegal immigrants in the country and has resulted in an increase of social problems and crimes.

"The accused was charged under a national security offence listed in the First Schedule of Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) after the amendment in 2014. This indicates the seriousness of the Malaysian government in combating the smuggling of illegal immigrants into this country," she said.

She further applied for the pump boat and its three engines to be forfeited under section 36 of the ATIPSOM 2007.

The court ordered Pocowan to run his custodial sentence with effect from his date of arrest on Aug 1, and be referred to the Immigration Department after completing his jail sentence.

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