JOHOR BARU • A two-year-old girl who went missing for weeks after an outing with her father has been reportedly "adopted" by a couple in Singapore, after the incident sparked a frantic search in Malaysia for the child.
The toddler, Angie Tiong, was being cared for by her relatives when her father took her away from her Johor Baru home on Nov 9 last year. But when the 33-year-old man, who has not been identified, failed to return with the girl, her relatives questioned the man who lodged a missing person police report on Dec 10.
The father, who has a history of substance abuse, told the police that he handed his child to a man in Johor who gave him RM12,000 (S$4,000). Angie's relatives suspect that he has sold his daughter.
Citing a source, China Press reported that the toddler - who is said to have been abandoned by her Vietnamese mother - has been "adopted" by a childless married couple in Singapore.
The paperwork was done by a lawyer in Johor Baru appointed by the couple's middleman, said the source, adding that the adoption process was done according to Singapore laws and Angie's father signed over the custody of the girl to the couple.
It is believed that the couple has never seen Angie's father. The source said he is not sure if money was given to him.
Angie's uncle Luo Jie Cheng, 49, told reporters that the couple had promised to take the child to the Johor Police Headquarters on Thursday, after reading news about her disappearance.
But the couple did not appear and instead got their lawyer to handle the case, according to Mr Luo, who waited for hours at the police station with his wife. They probably backed out due to the media attention, he added.
The police earlier said they have arrested three suspects - a cook, a labourer and an unemployed man - all aged between 30 and 33 years old. Angie's father was released after questioning.
It is not clear if Angie is in Malaysia or Singapore now, but she is said to be staying with relatives of her "adopted parents", the China Press reported.
Angie's aunt Tiong Mei Ling, 37, who works as a hawker stall helper in Singapore, was emotional when she learnt the girl was safe.
"I am really very happy. Friday is my birthday and to have found Angie is the best birthday present for me," she was quoted as saying by the Chinese language daily.