"We have arrested a suspect," director of the West Kalimantan Police's Criminal Investigation Division, Sen.Coms.Luthfie Sulistiawan, said here on Tuesday.
The victims of the human-trafficking operation comprise 13 men and five women, he informed. Three of them came from outside West Kalimantan province, he said.
Police investigators seized cash and a cellular phone from the suspect, he added.
The suspect might have used the phone to contact illegal labor agents in Malaysia for recruiting the 18 Indonesians as illegal migrant workers, he said.
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The suspect used a simple modus operandi: he promised victims "decent work" with high wages in Malaysia, he added.
To avoid the grip of human-trafficking syndicates, people must reject any illegal recruitment process, Sulistiawan said.
Those wanting to seek overseas jobs must get them legally, he added.
Sulistiawan did not reveal the suspect's identity but said he has been placed in police custody for further investigation.
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If the suspect is found guilty of violating Indonesia's Law No.21/2007 on Human Trafficking, he could be sentenced to between 3 and 15 years in prison, he added.
Transnational human-trafficking syndicates still pose a serious threat to Indonesia.
In March 2020, police in Riau province thwarted an attempt by a transnational human-trafficking syndicate to smuggle 15 Indonesian and two Indian nationals to Malaysia through Rupat Island in Bengkalis district.
Members of the Malaysia-Indonesia-India syndicate tried to transport the 17 victims by speed boat through the waters of Sungai Cingam village in Rupat Island, Bengkalis district, Riau province, at the end of March last year.
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"The human trafficking operation was conducted from Rupat Island because the boat could reach Malaysian territory within 30 minutes," Riau Police spokesperson Sen.Coms.Sunarto said in April last year.
Police arrested five suspects -- identified as AM alias Ahmad, AR alias Abdul, KH alias Irul, HL alias Lina, and SP alias Pian -- who played different roles in the human-trafficking operation.
Ahmad served as the boat's skipper, while Abdul and Irul were crew members. Lina served as the recruiter and enticed the victims to travel to Malaysia by promising them high-wage jobs, while Pian coordinated the operation.
The suspects were likely Rupat islanders, stated Suharto. They tried to take the people who paid them by speed boat through the Morong Strait to Malaysia, he said.
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