SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): A man allegedly misappropriated about S$470,000 from at least 218 people who signed up for a package for Umrah – an Islamic religious pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Suwandi Marchuke, 55, is claiming trial to multiple charges, including one count of criminal breach of trust and five counts of intentionally aiding a firm called Bil Hikmah Consultants to carry on the business of a travel agent when it was not licensed to do so.
Suwandi, who is also known as Andy Martiin, as well as Datuk Andy Martiin, was declared bankrupt on Aug 22, 2013.
He was said to be the sole manager of Bil Hikmah, which was registered in Singapore on Feb 13, 2014.
Deputy Public Prosecutors Ryan Lim and Joshua Phang said that the partners of the firm were Siti Rohani Kusno, whom Suwandi had employed in his separate scaffolding business, and his brother-in-law, Sulaiman Hussain.
The DPPs told the court that both were partners in name only and played no part in Bil Hikmah’s management.
They added: “Sometime in or before September 2014, the accused, through Bil Hikmah, began to offer an Umrah travel package called (Pakej Umrah Mampu Pergi or) Pump 2015.
“The package included flights and accommodation, with the trip due to take place from Dec 12 to 22, 2015. Save for Pump 2015, Bil Hikmah offered no other travel packages and carried out no other activities.”
The price per person was $1,998, with additional fees payable for extras. There was also a registration fee of $150.
The DPP said that at least 218 people signed up with Bil Hikmah for Pump 2015, adding that between around September 2014 and November 2015, they collectively paid about $470,000 to the firm.
According to court documents, the prices for Pump 2015 were substantially less than the market price for Umrah travel packages offered by others, which typically cost up to $3,500 more.
The DPPs told District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan: “On Nov 7, 2015, the accused announced at a meeting with (the) customers that Pump 2015 would not take place on the scheduled dates, claiming that there were issues with hotel bookings.
“Multiple police reports were subsequently made against the accused and Bil Hikmah.”
Suwandi allegedly misappropriated the collected funds and is accused of using the monies for business investments.
Suwandi, who is represented by lawyer Rajwin Singh Sandhu from Rajwin & Yong, was then arrested on Nov 9, 2015.
His trial resumes on Tuesday.