JOHOR BARU: Hopes of performing the umrah (minor pilgrimage) for 61 friends were dashed when the alleged travel agent failed to send them to the holy land.
The victims, all residents from Taman Gaya, Pelangi Indah, near here, had paid RM430,050 and were supposed to leave for Saudi Arabia on Sept 18.
However, the trip was postponed to Sept 25 and then to Oct 8.
“We even held a kenduri (thanksgiving feast) at a mosque near our place inviting relatives and friends to pray for our safety, ” housewife Maznah Ahmad said.
The victims had paid RM7,050 each for the two-week umrah package including RM650 fees for umrah visa issued by the Saudi authorities to a travel company with an office in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.
The company also has offices in Kuala Terengganu and Temerloh.
Irked by the delay, Maznah and the other victims contacted the travel agent but were told by an employee that the company did not book the packages for them.
“We found out the company had used our money for other expenditure as it has cash flow problems, ” she claimed.
Another victim, businessman Ismail Mohamad, 55, had paid RM21,150 for himself, his wife Sayati Kardjo, 51, and brother Ibrahim, 42, for the package.
“We got to know about the umrah package through an ustaz who conducts religious lectures at the mosque in our housing estate, ’’ he said.
Contractor Syed Ali Syed Sahat, 52, and wife Marsila Marzuki, 51, paid RM19,600 to the company for two packages.
“We even went to KLIA on Nov 7, when the company informed us that we will leave for Saudi Arabia the next day at about 8am and the rest of participants from Johor Baru will leave by bus to KLIA, ’’ he said, adding that he found out that his name was not listed in any Saudi Arabia-bound flight.
In another case, two retired teachers from Batu Pahat were elated when their former classmate promised to send them for the umrah in April at a discounted price.
Manjoko Kormain and Kasmuri Jemo, both 64, said they would only have to fork out RM500 each for the package instead of RM5,200 and the classmate, who claimed to be a businessmen, would pay RM4,700 each for them.
“The catch was that we needed to look for another 15 people in order for us to pay RM500 only, ” said Manjoko from Taman Pertama, Sri Gading, in Batu Pahat.
He said 13 of their former classmates signed up for the packages for RM500 each, while another 15 comprised their spouses and children at RM5,200 each.
Manjoko paid RM500 for himself and RM5,200 each for his wife Junaidah Ahmad, 60, his 40-year-old son and 37-year-old daughter, bringing the total to RM16,100.
“That has been a good lesson for me to not easily trust or believe your own friends, and when the offer is too good to be true, something is fishy, ” said Manjoko.
Manjoko’s friend Kasmuri from Kampung Seri Baharom, Rengit, paid RM500 and RM5,200 for his wife Siti Robiah Kaliman, 62, and were supposed to leave for umrah on April 18 with other participants
All the victims lodged police reports.
Johor police chief Comm Datuk Kamaruddin Md Said said police received 17 reports involving victims cheated for umrah packages with losses amounting to more than RM1.06mil from January to Dec 25 this year.
He said Kota Tinggi police district recorded the highest losses with RM402,473, followed by Batu Pahat with RM317,480, Kluang (RM100,100), Johor Baru South (RM94,345), Pontian (RM55,920), Seri Alam (RM52,136), Segamat (RM31,120) and Muar with RM7,322.
According to news reports quoting Tourism and Culture Deputy Minister Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, there were 3,883 cases of scam umrah packages from 2012 until June this year with RM13.8mil in losses.
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