KUALA LUMPUR - It has been 10 months since Syrian teacher Khaled Ali and his family had been stranded here after being conned into believing they could get passports at the KL International Airport to enter Sweden.
He paid US$9,500 (S$12,000) to one Abdul Rakhman Salekh, aged about 50, who offered the passports and flight tickets to him and his five family members to travel here from Moscow, and then to Stockholm.
The man had assured his family would get new passports from a person who would be waiting for them at the KLIA, Khaled said.
"I took up the offer because I wanted to give my 11-year-old son the best medical treatment in a Stockholm hospital," he said, adding that his son's deteriorating condition was yet to be diagnosed even by the doctors in Malaysia.
"Rakhman travelled with us from Moscow to Abu Dhabi on an Etihad flight on July 2. When we arrived there after the five-hour flight, he asked me to hand over our passports to him.
"I gave him the passports because he said he would get us new Swedish passports when we reached KLIA," he said, adding that the man had told him that being a Syrian passport holder he was barred from entering many European countries.
Khaled said when his family arrived at the KLIA, Rakhman was nowhere to be found.
The teacher then alerted KLIA security officers, who checked the passenger list and did not find Rakhman's name in it.
In January last year, The Star reported that people fleeing from countries torn by strife are being duped by international syndicates using KLIA as their base.
The report, which also highlighted Khaled's plight, quoted Palestinian ambassador to Malaysia Abdelaziz Abughoush as saying these syndicates were abusing the kindness shown by the Malaysian Government in allowing Muslims to enter the country without visas.
"There are mafia-type groups taking advantage of desperate people, not just Palestinians, by promising them travel documents and visas to enable them to enter any country of their choice," he said.
Khaled's case reflects the controversial boarding of two Iranian men on the MH370 flight from KLIA with stolen passports.
Pouria Nour Mohammad Merhdad, 19, and Delavar Seyed Mohammad Erza, 29, had reportedly flown here from Doha using Iranian passports and then switched to the stolen Austrian and Italian passports to board the plane.
This could mean they had most likely picked up the stolen passports at KLIA.
Khaled said he had seen four passports carried by Rakhman, which had the photographs of the alleged conman but under different names.