Caught in the mule trap


JOHOR BARU: For 33-year-old Thinesh (not his real name), it was a difficult period in his life when both his parents died of illnesses while a younger brother met with an accident – all within a span of three years.

Working as a security guard with his meagre income of less than RM2,000 a month, he was unable to afford the medical bills of his brother who lost an eye in the accident last year.

This was when he befriended a person known as Savin (not his real name), who offered him a huge reward of almost RM200,000 if he helped him set up a hardware company and open a current account.

“I needed money for my brother’s eye surgery and I thought it was an easy deal. I managed to talk to at least six other friends who agreed to participate in the scheme as I was promised a hefty commission if I recruited others,” he said in an interview.

Savin then arranged for Thinesh and his friends to meet at a place and were taken to the Registrar of Companies to set up several companies supplying hardware equipment and home renovation.

“There were no questions asked and everything was done using our identity cards.

“For this task we were paid RM500 each. When enquired about the rest of the payment, Savin told us to wait as we are also required to open business accounts.“We were asked to meet again at a particular time when Savin went to the bank to talk to the officers, especially during lunch hour.

“He told us to meet a particular officer at a certain branch to open a bank account. We went to several banks,” he said, adding that the process of opening accounts was smooth without many questions from the bank officer.

Savin paid for the deposits to open the bank accounts.

Thinesh said some of them suspected something amiss when they had to wait for hours to meet a particular bank officer or go to the bank when there were hardly any customers.

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“The officer did not give us any cheque book or bank card once everything was done,” he said, adding that Savin promised them their reward once everything was done and finalised.

Their nightmare started several weeks later when they started receiving calls from police stations around the country, alleging that the bank accounts were being used as mule accounts to siphon money.

“I checked with the bank and was shocked that there were multiple accounts opened under my name and more than RM1.5mil had been transacted,” Thinesh said, adding that after several weeks of running he decided to surrender to the police.

Thinesh’s account was linked to at least 13 cheating cases in the country, including in Penang, Sabah and Sarawak.

Thinesh was charged and paid a fine of RM2,000 in Kuala Lumpur and has a few more court hearings where he plans to plead guilty.

Another victim known as Guna (not his real name), 44, who is a former businessman, said he and his wife were tricked into helping this syndicate open businesses and bank accounts.

“We were both on the police’s wanted list and it was a living nightmare. We always fought and I had to go into hiding for some months,” he said, adding that he too did not get the promised reward but only about RM1,000.

The police even came to his house in Johor several times to arrest them.

“We had more than a dozen reports each around the country with transactions exceeding RM2mil,” he said, adding that he was also arrested, paid a fine of up to RM4,500 and also spent almost a week in prison.

Both Thinesh and Guna regret their mistake but they did not expect to get into so much trouble.

“We advise others not to be so gullible. Don’t hand over your identity cards to strangers with promises of cash rewards,” they said.

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