A 49-year-old Malaysian, who was wrongfully convicted for crimes he did not commit, has been freed after spending two years in jail
On 3 March 2019, Tey Kok Liong was sentenced by two separate courts to 53 years in jail.
He was a lorry driver, whose identity was misused — leading to the establishment of 10 companies registered under his name.
The companies were registered online with the Companies Commission of Malaysia (CCM) in 2013 and 2014 without going through a biometric identification process, said Selayang member of Parliament (MP) William Leong in a statement yesterday, 6 May.
Leong said the government only started using the ezBiz website equipped with the biometric system to avoid identity theft in 2015.
Following which in 2016, officers from the then Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperative, and Consumerism (KPDNKK) served him with 57 orders from the Consumer Claims Tribunal under Regulation 21(5) of the Consumer Protection Act (Consumer Claims Tribunal) 1999, reported Malaysiakini.
Although Tey lodged a police report to state that he had never registered any businesses and that his name had been misused, he was later charged in 2018 and eventually convicted in March 2019
He was charged under Section 117 of the Consumer Protection Act 1999 for failing to compensate consumers within 14 days in January 2018.
He faced 16 charges at the Kota Bharu Magistrates Court and 55 charges at the Seremban Magistrates Court.
Without a lawyer, he was convicted for over 10 charges and all 55 charges at the two courts respectively.
The Kota Bharu Magistrates Court sentenced him between six and 12 months' jail for each charge, and they were able to run concurrently.
Meanwhile, the Seremban Magistrates Court sentenced him between five and 18 months' jail for each charge, but Tey was ordered to serve the jail term consecutively.
In the end, the total jail term he had to serve was 53 years, four months, and 16 days.
"I could not afford a lawyer. Because I did not prepare strong evidence, the court sentenced me to 53 years in prison," Tey said in a joint press conference with the Selayang MP yesterday
"Inside the prison, I asked my friend to look for my brother and through my brother, I contacted (Selayang MP) Leong to ask for assistance."
It is understood that when Tey was imprisoned, none of his family members knew about it.
A few months after he was stuck behind bars in Pengkalan Chepa Prison, Leong came to learn about Tey's predicament. As a lawyer himself, he agreed to offer Tey free legal service.
Leong was joined by his fellow lawyers, Chiew Choon Man and Lee Zhe Hui, to appeal Tey's convictions.
The lawyers asked the police and CCM to investigate Tey's complaint about the misuse of his identity.
“At all material time, Tey was only a normal worker who worked with an air-conditioning technician and drove a lorry in Kuala Lumpur. Tey is also not so good with his literacy,” Leong said in a statement, as reported by Malaysiakini.
"That is why Tey does not have the capability to open 10 businesses and come up with fraudulent schemes affecting hundreds of people. Tey also did not and could not afford to hire someone else to carry out the fraudulent activities."
Eventually, in 2020, CCM's investigation showed that Tey was not involved in the registration of the companies and they managed to take action against the perpetrators who misused Tey's identity.
On 3 May 2021, Tey was freed after the courts were presented with new evidence and overturned Tey's convictions.
Speaking during the press conference, Leong reminded members of the public to always be careful while dealing with copies of their identity cards and to always mark the copies with intended purposes.