Boatman helped transport brother, friend to Batam despite COVID-19 travel restrictions

Wan Ting Koh
·3-min read
Fishermen fishing near St. John's Island Pier, an offshore island to the south of Singapore
Fishermen fishing near St. John's Island Pier, an offshore island to the south of Singapore. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A boatman felt sorry for his brother and the latter’s friend who could not see their families in Indonesia during the pandemic period so he helped them leave Singapore from Saint John’s Island.

Arman Mahmood, 36, helped Mohamad Sodikin Bin Ritban, 43, and Muhammad Aqib Bin Mahmood, 29, depart Singapore at about 1.20am on 30 October last year.

The Singaporean boatman was jailed for seven months and fined $6,000 on Friday (8 January) after pleading guilty to one count of aiding Aqib, who is his younger brother, leave Singapore from an unauthorised point of departure, and one count of deliberately switching off a transponder on his vessel, a breach under the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (Port) Regulations.

Another charge of helping Sodikin, Aqib’s friend, leave Singapore illegally was taken into consideration for sentencing.

Arman worked as a boatman who ferried passengers from Marina South Pier to ships, or between ships, on his Singapore-registered vessel called Cast Explorer.

Sodikin and Aqib approached Arman last September for help to enter Batam, Indonesia, as they wanted to visit their families and needed a boat to help them on one leg of the journey.

Aqib had a family in a village in Batam, even though he was not legally married there. He had been travelling to Batam frequently before COVID-19 struck.

Feeling sympathetic for the two men, Arman agreed to ferry them on his vessel. The duo planned to transfer to another boat for the next leg of the journey.

They boarded Arman’s vessel late at night on 29 October. Arman deliberately switched off the main electric supply to a transponder installed on his vessel in order to avoid being detected by the Police Coast Guard. He then started the journey to Kusu Island.

Sodikin and Aqib jumped over to an Indonesian vessel from Arman’s boat at about 1.09am. Arman then switched back on the main electric supply to the transponder and made his way back to Kusu Island before heading back to Marina South Pier.

Arman’s boat was detected by the Police Coast Guard and he was later placed under arrest.

According to Aqib’s charge sheet, he returned to Singapore on 29 November through Kusu Island. He has since been sentenced to two months’ jail for departing Singapore from an unauthorised departure point, with one count of entering Singapore from an unauthorised point taken into consideration for sentencing.

Sodikin’s case is still pending before the courts.

In mitigation, Arman asked the court through an interpreter to have another chance.

“I hope I won’t be imprisoned for too long as I have a sick wife in Johor . I know I was wrong and I attempted to explain this to ICA (Immigration and Checkpoints Authority) the other day. I did not do this for the money, I just wanted to help. I know what I did was wrong,” he said.

For the offence under the Maritime Port Authority, Arman could have been fined up to $20,000.

For helping Aqib leave from an illegal point of departure, he could have been jailed between six months and two years, and fined up to $6,000.

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