Penang police have detained a couple, who were UNHCR card holders, on suspicion of smuggling undocumented Myanmar nationals into the country through Thailand, then holding them for ransom.

The suspects, believed to be agents of a syndicate, were arrested last Saturday after police were alerted to a drop house in Simpang Ampat where 10 Myanmar nationals — three men in their 30s and seven boys aged between eight and 17 — were held hostage for several days.

Police stormed the house and found the foreigners lying lifeless as a result of them being given little food and water, state police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi told a press conference yesterday.

All 10, are now under police custody.

Abdul Rahim said the foreigners were locked up in a terrace house and deprived of basic necessities while their families back home were forced to pay ransom.

The couple demanded ransom between RM4,000 and RM6,000 per person but it is not immediately known how much they had collected, he said.

He said police seized RM1,000, payment slips believed to be part of the ransom, a bank card and five mobile phones.

Police also seized a notebook that detailed how and when the 10 foreigners were smuggled into the country.

The diary, police said, would help determine the extent of the people smuggling racket the couple was involved in.

It is believed the hostages had arranged to be smuggled into Malaysia for an undisclosed fee. Once they crossed the border, the smugglers were thought to have increased the fees.

The hostages were apparently held until their family members could pay the increased fees.

Abdul Rahim said: “Early investigations showed the foreigners were brought in through Padang Besar in Perlis and were passed to a transporter before they were sent to the suspects’ house.”

“The couple had locked them up to claim ransom from the families. We believe the ransom varied between RM4,000 and RM6,000 per person.

“We paid close attention to the house for more than three hours before going in during Ops Pintar. We had to break our way in as those inside refused to cooperate to open the door.”

Abdul Rahim said the suspects, who were married, were in the house with their eight-year-old daughter and a three-day old baby girl.

Last December, a group of 49 illegal immigrants, aged between seven and 50, were nabbed by authorities after walking some 100 km from southern Thailand to Laka Selatan, Kedah.

The group had reportedly spent eight nights in the jungle, having only eaten one meal per day and drank rainwater.

The illegals, who did not have travel documents, paid RM3,000 to a syndicate to get into Malaysia. They intended to get jobs and settle down in the country.

Link: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/cops-save-10-myanmar-from-human-smugglers-detain-two-suspects#sthash.A1WY2vdc.dpuf