MIRI: A furniture businessman’s bail was set at RM25,000 in two sureties (one of whom must be a local person) by the Sessions Court.
The 45-year-old man was charged with five counts of human trafficking yesterday.
He was also ordered to hand over his passports (Malaysia and Brunei) and to report himself every week on Monday either at the Miri police station or Marudi police station pending his next trial.
Hwong Yu Hee was charged with trafficking Indonesian women at a karaoke pub in Marudi on Feb 1 at 10.10pm.
He, however, pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.
The court was told that Hwong was jointly charged with two others - Sim Ngo Seng @ Sim Chen Huat, 57, and Tie Siew Bing, 44. Both Sim and Tie were produced in the same court on March 14, 15 and 16 upon the expiry of their remand. They had also pleaded not guilty and claimed trial.
They were later released on bail amounting to RM10,000 in two sureties each.
The charges against all three were framed under Section 12 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007, which provides for a maximum jail sentence of not more than 15 years and liable to a fine.
All three accused were alleged to have forced the five Indonesian women into prostitution at the pub.
Upon receiving a distress call from the victims the police raided the pub and arrested Sim and Tie. The police, however, could not locate Hwong.
When the case was mentioned yesterday, Counsel Arthur Lee, who represented Hwong, said his client was in the Philippines when the police raided the pub.
Deputy public prosecutor Shahidah Muslimah Roslan told the court that the police had issued a public notification on Hwong to assist them in investigating the case.
Hwong failed to turn himself and was only arrested 12.05pm on Feb 7 at Sri Dagang Waterfront here.
Shahidah yesterday requested for a joint trial for all three accused.
Sessions Court judge Awang Kerisnada Awang Mahmud agreed to the request and fixed the joint trial for May 2 to 4.
In imposing the bail on Hwong, the judge reminded him to comply strictly with the bail requirements otherwise the court would not hesitate to retract it.