When one Singaporean family drove past the checkpoint at Johor Bahru (JB) without clearing customs, a Customs officer allegedly informed them that they had "committed a serious offence".
But the matter can be resolved "privately", the terrified family was allegedly told.
The catch? Give the Malaysian Customs officer some 'coffee money', which is a small amount of money given as a bribe.
Describing their ordeal in an interview with Shin Min Daily News, a woman, who only wanted to be named as Song, said that she and her husband decided to drive with their two children – aged nine and 11 – as well as her parents across the border last Saturday (May 7) evening to celebrate Mother's Day.
When the family-of-six was at customs in JB after clearing Woodlands Checkpoint, Song claimed that someone removed a safety cone there and told them to proceed to an immigration clearance counter.
The 42-year-old, who had not driven to Malaysia for more than two years, thought that the customs clearance procedures there had changed as the counter was empty.
After tapping their Touch 'n Go card, which pays for highway and checkpoint tolls, the gate opened automatically.
"We went to the vehicle inspection office to ask why there was no need to check our passports and get it stamped," Song said, adding that the officers there instructed them to drive to an office to continue clearing immigration.
"When [my husband and I] entered the office, a 30-plus-year-old officer told us that we had committed a serious offence. He took our passports and told us to wait outside."
The Malaysian officer came out afterwards, Song shared, adding that he pulled her husband aside and asked how they would like to resolve this issue.
He warned them that if they were convicted, the fines could be up to RM10,000 (S$3,100) in total.
But the family can settle the matter "privately" by paying RM400 to him, she claimed.
Johor's chief minister weighs in
Song's husband told the evening daily that he tried "bargaining" with the officer since he did not have that much cash with him.
After agreeing on the final amount, the 43-year-old added that the officer, who was wearing a uniform and a pair of slippers, instructed him to give him RM200 by slipping the money in his passport.
The couple knew that paying a bribe was wrong, but said they were forced to do so out of fear of being locked up in a foreign country.
"At that time, I was too scared to know what to do. The children were very anxious and asked my husband and I what was happening," she said.
In a Facebook comment to Shin Min Daily News on Wednesday (May 11), Onn Hafiz Ghazi, Johor's chief minister, said that he takes Song's allegations "seriously" and that he will be getting the necessary authorities to investigate.
The Johor Chief Minister's office has also contacted Shin Min Daily News to facilitate in reaching out to the Singaporean family who were involved in the alleged bribery incident, the evening daily reported.
Separately, another reader has contacted Shin Min Daily News to share a similar experience about her recent trip to Johor Bahru on May 6.
The woman, who only wanted to be named as Zhou, described how Checkpoint officers there threatened to arrest her after finding out that her passport was not stamped upon entry.
"I was told to go to a small room, where the officers there told me that the matter can be settled 'privately' with a RM3,000 sum," the 32-year-old tutor said, adding that she had since lodged a police report in Singapore.
In 2020, a Singaporean was arrested in Johor for allegedly bribing an immigration officer, said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
The 43-year-old had allegedly attempted to bribe the officer with RM100.