$2,600 fine for no passport stamp
By Joyce Lim, The New Paper | Mon, Jan 10 2011
A couple was detained at Johor Bahru immigration for missing a passport stamp.
THEY had planned to spend three nights in Malaysia as part of their new year celebrations. But Singapore expatriates (above) Thorsten Tatzki, 41, and Ni Hao, 21, were forced to spend an extra two nights - in detention. The couple were held by Malaysian immigration officers when they tried to leave Johor Baru and enter Singapore at the Causeway, by car, on Jan 2. The officers could not find any stamps on their passports. They spent two nights in separate cells at the immigration office before they were released on Jan 4, after paying a fine of RM3,000 (S$1,270) each and another RM100 (S$40) each for a special pass to leave Malaysia.
When contacted, an officer from Johor's Immigration office, confirmed that the couple were detained, but declined further comment. Our queries were routed to the director of immigration, who could not be reached for comment at press time.
On Dec 30 last year, Mr Tatzki who is from Germany , drove to Malaysia with his girlfriend, a Chinese national, in a rented Toyota Altis.
"We drove past the Malaysia 's immigration checkpoint at about 5.30pm and headed to Kuala Lumpur (KL) for the night," recalled Miss Ni, who has been living in Singapore for the past five years. "We did not realise that our passports were not stamped."
The couple spent a night in KL and the following two nights in Port Dickson before heading back on Jan 2.
Added Miss Ni, who works as a business development executive: "When we arrived at the Malaysian checkpoint, the officer told us that she could not find any stamps on our passport to prove that we have entered Malaysia legally."We showed her our hotel and shopping receipts and also the receipt for topping up our Touch N Go card, hoping to convince her that we were there for a holiday and were not involved in any illegal activities."
But things were not so simple.
Said Mr Tatzki, general manager of an Australian company in Singapore : "We were led to a room where we waited for 45 minutes before another officer took us to another room. We spent another two hours in the room before one officer came in and told me that my girlfriend and I had been arrested." He added: "I asked him to explain why we were arrested and how long we had to stay there, but he wasn't very helpful. We had no idea what was going on."
In cell with women crying
The couple were allowed to make one phone call before they were taken to separate cells. Mr Tatzki called to inform his boss that he would have to miss work the following day. Miss Ni managed to make a call only the next day, informing a friend in Singapore of her plight. Said Miss Ni: "We had to remove all our belongings, like shoes, watches, mobile phones. The cell was very smelly and cold. There was also no proper sanitation. There were three other foreign women with me in the cell and two of them were constantly crying. It was very traumatising for me." Said Mr Tatzki: "(It was noisy) and the lights were left on the whole night. We couldn't sleep at all.
"The next day, an officer told me that I could choose to pay a RM3,000 fine or wait to go to court. He said that if I didn't pay now, the procedure would take longer and maybe I would end up paying more later. I felt that I didn't have a choice."
The officer told him that they only accepted cash and asked him to call a friend in Singapore to deliver the money by 6pm that day. Even though Mr Tatzki's friend met the 6pm deadline, he was not released. The officer told him that he would have to "submit a report to higher management for approval" before they could leave.
The couple had to pay RM100 each for this special pass to leave Malaysia. So the couple were held for another night and were released at 4pm the next day, but only after a bit of drama over having to pay another RM200 for "special passes".
Said Mr Tatzki: "One officer came into the cell and asked if I had the money. I said yes. He then told me we needed to pay another RM100 each for a special pass to leave Malaysia. I was very angry because the day before I had asked him many times if it was just RM3,000 each. And he said yes. I had some Malaysian ringgit left in my wallet. But I was still short of RM40 (S$17). "I told them that it was very unfair to us as we were not going to stay in jail for another night because we were short of RM40." Fortunately the sister of Miss Ni's friend, whom she had telephoned the day before, visited her at the immigration office and paid the RM40.
The couple were given back their belongings and left the checkpoint at about 5pm on Jan 4. Said Mr Tatzki: "I understand that we made a mistake by not checking for the stamps on our passports. "We hope that our horrible experience will warn visitors to Malaysia to check their passports before they leave the checkpoints." Said a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman: "Singaporeans should ensure that their passports are stamped at entry when entering Malaysia . It is within the jurisdiction of the country to impose a penalty when this rule is flouted. We do not keep a record of these cases."
This article was first published in The New Paper.

Note: Be very careful when crossing Malaysia Check Point, to have your passport stamped !