Mid­dle­men sweet-talked Felda folk into buy­ing ‘stolen’ ve­hi­cles

New Straits Times - - Front Page - T.N. ALAGESH BERA

TEN years ago, when Mohd Zaidi Hasan de­cided to ven­ture into the busi­ness of trans­port­ing oil palm fruits in Felda Bukit Mendi near here, the 60-year-old bought two three-tonne lor­ries in a deal that seemed like a steal.

The mid­dle­man claimed that the lor­ries were on the verge of be­ing re­pos­sessed by a bank, and Zaidi did not hes­i­tate to pay RM40,000 for both ve­hi­cles.

He said he threw cau­tion to the wind be­cause he in­tended to use the se­cond-hand lor­ries only within the plan­ta­tion.

Ten years down the road, on March 7, things took an un­pleas­ant turn when a group of po­lice­men knocked on his house door dur­ing the wee hours.

They wanted to in­spect the ve­hi­cles and told him that the lor­ries had been re­ported stolen.

Shocked and con­fused, the fa­ther-of-five soon re­alised that he was not alone as sev­eral of his friends, who also bought sec­ond­hand lor­ries from the same mid­dle­man, were de­tained af­ter the chas­sis num­bers of their ve­hi­cles were found to have been tam­pered with.

Zaidi ad­mit­ted that his lack­adaisi­cal at­ti­tude had landed him in hot wa­ter as he should have been more alert when some­one tried to sell him ve­hi­cles at a low price with­out doc­u­ments.

“In fact, the per­son who in­tro­duced me to buy the lor­ries was an old friend, and since I badly needed the ve­hi­cles, I did not hes­i­tate to pay the money.

“Many set­tlers also fell vic­tim to the fraud­ster and bought the lor­ries, with some even hav­ing valid road tax.

“None of us knew that the lor­ries were stolen as the mid­dle­man only in­formed us that they were lori lari dari fi­nance (re­pos­sessed lor­ries).”

He said the po­lice then took state­ments from him and other “un­sus­pect­ing buy­ers”, which in­cluded how their deals took place.

Zaidi, who re­cently bought a se­cond-hand lorry from a used ve­hi­cle dealer here, said the set­tlers were an­gry af­ter learn­ing that they had fallen vic­tim to a syn­di­cate, and were sweet-talked into buy­ing stolen lor­ries for RM15,000 to RM25,000 each.

“None of us ex­pected to land in trou­ble or end up earn­ing a liv­ing with stolen ve­hi­cles.

“What we wanted were lor­ries to trans­port the fruits, and since we never drove the lor­ries out to the main road, we did not bother about doc­u­ments.

“All the stolen lor­ries’ chas­sis num­bers had been tam­pered with and when po­lice iden­ti­fied some of them, they found them match­ing the ve­hi­cles re­ported stolen in other places,” he said on Wed­nes­day.

Zali­nah Jo­hari, who bought two lor­ries in 2005 from a mid­dle­man for RM18,000 and RM16,000, said she was un­der im­mense stress fol­low­ing the raid.

The 50-year-old mother of four said the set­tlers re­gret­ted their ac­tion when the po­lice raided their homes in March.

“I own a lorry (with gen­uine doc­u­ments) and bought two more through a mid­dle­man, hop­ing to ex­pand my busi­ness.

“The deal was sim­ple... the mid­dle­man would bring the lorry and if the po­ten­tial buyer is in­ter­ested, he or she has to pay in cash,” she said.

Bukit Mendi Vil­lage Se­cu­rity and De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee chair­man Dzulka­r­nain Abd Wa­hab said the in­ci­dent was a wakeup call for peo­ple to deal only with gen­uine se­cond-hand ve­hi­cle deal­ers.

He chas­tised the se­cond- and third-gen­er­a­tion Felda set­tlers, re­mind­ing them that they should have been aware of such in­ci­dents as some of them had jobs in gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

He said these Felda set­tlers had cre­ated a bad track record for them­selves by buy­ing ve­hi­cles un­der du­bi­ous cir­cum­stances.


Mohd Zaidi Hasan (right) shar­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing raided by po­lice af­ter he bought lor­ries from a stolen ve­hi­cle syn­di­cate.

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