Couple sentenced to 15 years each for exploitation of children

IPOH: A married couple was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment each and fined RM28,000 each after they pleaded guilty in the Sessions Court here today to 28 counts of forcing children aged 11 to 17 to sell various items in four locations nationwide.

Muslim Ab Karim, 67, and his wife Zaleha Mohamad, 55, held the posts of chairman and treasurer respectively of Pusat Latihan Amal Bestari in Yan, Kedah.

They were alleged to have exploited the children as beggars to sell items such as calendars, oils and herbal medicine around the country.

In passing sentence, judge Murtazadi Amran said the intention may be good but they have gone against the law by using children.

DPP Mohamad Abazafree Mohd Abbas told the court such unlawful activities was a serious offence and public interest must be considered.

"The sentence must be in line with the Government's seriousness in tackling the problem," he added.

Their lawyer, Zamri Idrus, in mitigation asked the court to consider the age of the accused, whose also an asthma patient while his wife suffers from diabetes.

"By pleading guilty, they have saved the court's time and other costs. They are also first-time offenders and regret their actions," he added.

The couple pleaded guilty to 28 charges of using children to beg under Section 32(a) of the Child Act 2001.

They were accused of committing the offences in Ipoh and Taiping in Perak, Raub and Kuantan in Pahang and Kota Baru in Kelantan.

A total of 19 children were involved, including 12 girls and seven boys.

Initially, the couple was charged under Section 14 of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons and Anti-Smuggling of Migrants Act 2007 (Atipsom) for trafficking 12 girls between the ages of 11 and 13 on Oct 7 and 8 last year at 133, Jalan Perajurit Timur 9, Taman Syabas Baru, in Ipoh.

However, they pleaded guilty to the alternative charges under the Child Act, which was offered by the prosecution.

Murtazadi sentenced the couple to a RM1,000 fine and concurrent sentences of 15 months jail for each charge, from the date of arrest on May 7,2017.

He also ordered the case items be handed over to the DPP's office to be disposed off after the appeal period ends.

He added that the money seized from them — amounting to RM4,750.80 and 1 million Indonesian rupiah, is to be forfeited to the government.