Human Trafficking Bust Lifts Lid on Migrant Worker Abuse In Sarawak

News reported last week about the arrest by immigration department officials of a human trafficking ring in Sarawak, including of an alleged ‘mastermind’ named ‘Dudley’, provoked an instant reaction from across the globe.

One family from India who say they have been looking for their lost son and sibling for the past five years, in the face of silence bordering on obstruction from the Malaysian authorities, have provided Sarawak Report with documentation and evidence to show that it was an agent by this exact same name who was linked to his disappearance.

The story is made all the more shocking in that the names of the missing man, Krishna Radheshyam, 28 and that of his friend and fellow migrant worker, Abhishek Jamdade, 20 were published in the Sarawak media as having both gone missing (presumed dead)  following the sinking of what was described as “an illegal barge” in the Rajang River near Kapit, reported on 30th January 2018.

In such a case of a presumed death by misdemeanour of licensed guest workers the family had the right to expect the full assistance and cooperation of the Malaysian and Sarawak state authorities. All licensed workers are legally required to be insured and therefore compensation was due as well.

Instead, it appears that even though the authorities were aware of the identities and contacts for these two missing men, who had been apparently licensed by the agency that had assigned them to the barge, nothing has been done to mitigate the bewilderment and grief of their families back in India.

Sarawak Report has been contacted by Krishna’s brother Rajesh, who for five years has refused to drop the battle to seek out and rescue his beloved brother on behalf of his grief-stricken parents and siblings in Mumbai.

He notes that the statements regarding the latest arrests for alleged trafficking refer to a “modus operandi” which was to “promise jobs on a ship to the victims, who are brought in to Malaysia via the Kuala Lumpur Internatinal Airport before being flown to Miri and Sibu.”

This was exactly what he says happened to his brother who was then forced against his will to work instead on a river barge named Zim Yin in Sarawak.

Yet, whilst the police state that the syndicate arrested under their so-called ‘Special Ops Dudley’ is believed to have only “been active since May last year when the country’s borders reopened after being closed for the Covid-19 pandemic”, the episode involving Khrisna took place back in 2017/18.

The family says that despite the publicised tragedy and assumed drowning of his brother there has been no response or support from numerous authorities contacted. Only volunteers from the human rights NGO, Tenaganita, have troubled to offer solace and make enquiries, however they too are struggling five years on to get proper answers.

“I have made enquiries to the police and immigration authorities over many years but have received no responses”

the NGO’s director Joseph Paul Maliamauv has told Sarawak Report.

False Promises Then Missing Presumed Dead

It has not therefore been confirmed whether the syndicate of five Indians and the mysterious ‘Dudley’ are the same gang who recruited the missing seamen.

Qualified mariner Krishna who was forced onto river barges having been hired on 'false pretences'
Qualified mariner Krishna who was forced onto river barges having been hired on ‘false pretences’

What is clear from the available documentation is that the young Krishna Radheshyam and his friend, who were both qualified mariners from India, were recruited in 2017 first by an Indian agent named Yogesh Bhoir to whom they paid 140,000 rupees (RM7,883) in order to allegedly work on a Malaysian maritime ship.

They were then passed to a Malaysian agent called Dudley Lusat Wan to obtain their local papers and required visas to do the work.

This Dudley Lusat Wan was a representative for a Sarawak based company in Miri named Solid Maritime Sdn Bhd, according to documentation seen by Sarawak Report

Representative of the Agency Solid Maritime
Representative of the agency Solid Maritime

His number produces a WhatsApp logo with an emblem that is likewise featured on the existing Facebook page for a man by the name of Dudley Lusat who lives in Miri but gives no details of his employment.

The page was last active in March. Sarawak Report has reached out for comment on his WhatsApp but has so far received no reply.

Matching WhatsApp and Facebook IDs for the agent who licensed the Indian seaman in 2017
Matching WhatsApp and Facebook IDs for the agent who licensed the Indian seaman in 2017

Instead of giving his brother work on maritime ships, says his brother, this agent working for Solid Maritime Sdn Bhd informed them he would be working on a river barge in Sarawak.  This was the so-called Zim Yin, a vessel that the establishment paper Sarawak Tribune described as ‘illegal’ in its coverage of the later disaster.

” The Sibu agent changed the ship and my brother called home 25th January and said Dudley was saying he had to work in the barge if he says no we will beat you and hide you. We immediately called the local agent in India, Yogesh Bhoir, to please bring my child back to India. He said no problem but then he ran away from us” [brother Rajesh]

The sinking of the barge took place just days later on 29th January 2018 with seven workers on board the barge, five of whom were saved. The other two, Krishna and his friend Abhishek, disappeared.

That day a man by the name of Hii Duan Chun based in Sibu issued a police report saying the two were presumed dead. The Zim Yin barge is understood to have been the property of the Sibu based company Zim Yin Sdn Bhd of which all three shareholders were from a family by the name of Hii:

Police report filed on the tragedy by a Mr Hii
Police report filed on the tragedy by a Mr Hii

“On 29/01/2018 at approximately 0540 hours located at Nanga Ibau Kapit the ship ZIM YEN is believed to have sunk having had a leak. As a result of that two Indian citizens known as Abhishek KiranJamdade (L) and Kaishna Radheshayam Badal (L) (given orally) have passed away, During the incident there were 7 the people who were in the ship and 5 people were able to save their lives. [translated police report]

Yet the family in India say they were given no notice of the situation until they received a swift call on 9th February that purported to be from the agent Dudley in which he said that he was representing a Mr Hii as the owner of the barge to say Krishna had disappeared.

Then he put down the phone immediately and we have tried calling back 100 times but were not given a single response. From 25 Jan 2018 till this date we have been searching for my brother.

The number used by Dudley on that occasion which has apparently refused to take further calls back is not the same as the one he advertised when acting as the representative of Solid Maritime Sdn Bhd. Instead, that number reveals a WhatsApp profile for a man photographed apparently in Thailand.

The distinctive Thai coastal background of the picture attached to that number matches the background of the Facebook picture posed by a Sibu based Hii Duan Chun, which is the same name as the man who posted the police report.

Did Dudley call from the phone of the Zim Yin officer, Mr Hii, who made the police report on the sinking of the 'illegal' barge owned by the company?
Did Dudley call from the phone of the Zim Yin officer, Mr Hii, who made the police report on the sinking of the ‘illegal’ barge owned by the family company?

Zim Yin Shipping Sdn Bhd has since dissolved, yet Solid Maritime Sdn Bhd still operates according to company filings. However, until this latest news there has been no further communication with the family from Dudley, Solid Maritime or the owners of the defunct barge company Zim Yin.

One Tenaganita volunteer has told Sarawak Report that in the intervening period that the NGO and several Indian agencies, including the High Commission and Forward Seaman’s Union of India, have sought help and information for the family from Malaysian agencies, including the police, immigration and the relevant authorities in Sarawak but had no response.

And it has emerged that Krishna’s family are not the only ones in India seeking compensation and a response from Solid Maritime.  On the day of the arrests last week India’s Forward Seaman’s Union posted an announcement citing another example of a young worker who died whilst also allegedly working under a permit from Solid Maritime Sdn Bhd.

Likewise, far from being assisted and compensated, the union says the deceased man’s family had to fly their loved one home at their own expense.

Khrishna’s brother Rajesh says the family have since twice lost money to mystery scammers who contacted them, supposedly from Sarawak, saying their son was safe but in detention, but could be released and flown home in return for money.

Each time they paid but received no further news.

Rajesh says the people who mercilessly tricked his grieving parents for further money had all their contact details and he therefore suspects they too were linked to those who trafficked Krishna in the first place, forcing him under duress to work on an ‘illegal’, leaking barge.

The latest arrests have given the family hope. Is the suspected Ops Dudley syndicate linked to the missing man of the same name who tricked their brother they wonder?

Will the dissolved company Zim Yin and Solid Maritime at last be held to account over the insurance and compensation they were legally bound to have arranged and paid to the stricken relatives?

Will they at the very least be forced to tell the family all they know about the circumstances of Krishna’s abusive forced labour on an ‘illegal’ barge and what happened when it sank?

They, the Indian High Commission, Tenaganika or indeed Sarawak Report are all willing to act as conduits for information from the arresting officers in Sarawak.

More generally, if Ops Dudley has identified some of those behind the mass exploitation of foreign workers hired to strip out Sarawak’s dwindling resources, then well and good. However, the scale of this gangster economy has been openly ignored for far too long.

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