KUANTAN: Seven policemen including one with the rank of assistant superintendent found themselves on the wrong side of the law today when they were charged with soliciting RM500,000 from a lorry driver's helper in September last year.
The seven - Assistant Superintendent Mohd Haniff Omar, 36, Corporal Eddy Nurazman Mohd Nozeri, 36, Sergeant Helmie Yazir Ahmad, 38, Corporal Mohd Fairul Ishak, 36, Corporal Saharuddin Abdul Hamid, 35, Corporal Irdysham Mat Husain, 35, and Lance Corporal Mohd Fazli Mohd Radzi, 36 - appeared calm when they stood in the cramped dock before judge Mohd Ghazali Mohamad Taib.
The seven accused, attached to the marine police intelligence unit, pleaded not guilty after the two charges were read out to them by a court interpreter in the packed Sessions Court.
They were first jointly charged with soliciting a RM500,000 bribe from one Nadesa Pillai Goppal Pillai through Chang Chin Min as inducement to release three lorries which were transporting 700 boxes containing 35,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes, 59 boxes containing 708 bottles of liquor with unpaid duties and three lorry drivers - Liew Siau Foo, Chan Chee Choy and Chang.
On the second count, the policemen were jointly accused of committing extortion which put Nadesa Pillai in fear by seizing the contraband cigarettes and bottles of liquor with unpaid duties if he failed to pay the RM500,000 bribe which saw Nadesa handing over 98 boxes containing 4,900 cartons of contraband cigarettes and 59 boxes of 708 bottles of liquor with unpaid duties.
They had allegedly committed both the offences at SK Kedaik junction in Rompin between 3am and 3.30am on Sept 19 last year.
They were charged under Section 16(a)(B) of the MACC Act 2009 for soliciting a bribe, which carries a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of RM10,000, or five times the value of the bribe, whichever is higher, if convicted.
For the second charge under Section 384 of the Penal Code for committing extortion, they could face a maximum jail term of 10 years or a fine, or with caning, or with any two of such punishments.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) deputy public prosecutor Siti Sarah Zainal Abidin who appeared for the prosecution urged the court to set bail at RM100,000 for each accused with one surety, and order them to surrender their passport to the court.
Lawyer Mohamed Khairul Fathi Mohamed Khir, who represented Haniff, Eddy Nurazman, Fairul, Saharuddin, Idrysham and Fazli, pleaded for a lower bail saying his clients were all married with children and had to also financially support their elderly parents who were unwell.
"They are all civil servants whose income might be affected due to the court trial and might be forced to find other jobs to support their respective families. All of them had cooperated with the MACC and did not abscond but instead choose to be present at court today as they respected the law," he said, proposing a RM5,000 bail for each accused.
Meanwhile Helmie Yazir, who was not represented, told the court he had five children aged between one and 10-years-old, and was still supporting his parents and a sibling who was at school.
"I have utilised my savings to prepare my children for the new school term and only managed to raise RM4,000. I agree to surrender my passport and promise to attend the court trial," he said.
Ghazali then set bail at RM15,000 each with one surety and ordered them to surrender their passports. He fixed March 25 for mention.