Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Religious Affairs Ministry has urged people to be careful while picking Umrah travel agents to avoid falling victim to fraud, like the one which came to light recently.

“This (fraud) case serves as a lesson for people, particularly Muslims, to exercise caution in picking and choosing Umrah travel agents,” the head of Umrah and Hajj monitoring at the Directorate General of Hajj and Umrah of the Religious Affairs Ministry, Mujib Roni, said in a statement received here on Friday.

The Greater Jakarta Police recently uncovered a case involving the neglect, fraud, and embezzlement of funds of prospective Umrah travelers by PT Naila Syafaah Wisata Mandiri (NSWM), an Umrah travel agent.

The police then detained three suspects, identified by their initials as MA, HA, and HS, who were serving as directors of the company. The suspects reportedly cheated hundreds of people in the period from 2022 to 2023 by promoting various Umrah travel packages.

As soon as the clients made the payment to the travel company, they were left stranded in Jakarta, without getting to fly to their destination. Some others were sent to Jeddah and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, but not brought back to Indonesia.

"The Religious Affairs Ministry has commended the efforts made by the Directorate of General Crime of Greater Jakarta Police in (investigating) this PT NSWM case. (This instance) will also impose a deterrent effect on Umrah travel agents, and we will consistently collaborate with the police to conduct monitoring and prevention," Roni said.

The ministry has provided coaching and education to travel agents and is monitoring them, he added. However, the euphoria of prospective Umrah travelers, coupled with the ease of making business permits, has made monitoring more difficult.

Moreover, people's interest to perform Umrah has continued to increase, he said. In 2022, as many as 1 million people performed Umrah, and as of March 2023, their number has already reached 400 thousand. Roni pegged the number of Umrah travelers in 2023 at 2 million.

"The lengthy wait for Hajj in Indonesia also sparks people's enthusiasm to do Umrah. Many people see promos of Umrah travel, offering cheap prices. Once more, we urge people to be cautious and smart in picking Umrah travel (agents)," he added.

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Translator: Asep Firmansyah, Mecca Yumna
Editor: Sri Haryati
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