Suwandi Marchuke, a 55-year-old man, is facing multiple charges, including criminal breach of trust and aiding a company to operate as a travel agent without a license. He is accused of misappropriating approximately $470,000 from 218 people who had signed up for a religious pilgrimage package to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The package was offered by Bil Hikmah Consultants, a travel agency registered by Suwandi as its sole manager. Suwandi was declared bankrupt in August 2013, and he is also known as Andy Martiin and Datuk Andy Martiin.
The partners of Bil Hikmah, according to Deputy Public Prosecutors Ryan Lim and Joshua Phang, were Suwandi’s employee in his scaffolding business, Ms. Siti Rohani Kusno, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Sulaiman Hussain. However, they were partners in name only and did not participate in the management of Bil Hikmah.
In September 2014 or before, Suwandi began offering an umrah travel package called Pump 2015 through Bil Hikmah. The package included flights and accommodation for the religious pilgrimage, which was scheduled to take place from Dec 12 to 22, 2015. The package was priced at $1,998 per person, with additional fees for extras and a registration fee of $150. Bil Hikmah offered no other travel packages or activities except for Pump 2015.
At least 218 people signed up for Pump 2015, and they collectively paid around $470,000 to Bil Hikmah from September 2014 to November 2015. Court documents revealed that the prices for Pump 2015 were significantly lower than the market price for umrah travel packages offered by other providers, which typically cost up to $3,500 more.
On Nov 7, 2015, Suwandi announced during a meeting with customers that Pump 2015 would not take place on the scheduled dates, citing issues with hotel bookings. Multiple police reports were subsequently made against Suwandi and Bil Hikmah.
Suwandi is accused of misappropriating the collected funds and using them for business investments. He was arrested on Nov 9, 2015, and is currently represented by lawyer Rajwin Singh Sandhu from Rajwin & Yong. His trial resumes on Tuesday.
The case highlights the importance of conducting due diligence when choosing a travel agency and ensuring that they are licensed to operate as a travel agent. It also emphasizes the need for individuals to be cautious when offered significantly lower prices for travel packages, as it may be a red flag indicating fraudulent activity. The case serves as a reminder to individuals to exercise caution when dealing with unfamiliar companies and to research the agencies and businesses they engage with thorou