The eastern coast of Penang Island in Malaysia, where maritime officials searched three fishing vessels in late July. Photo: Google Maps

Immigration officials in Malaysia have hit the director of a shipping agency with 25 charges following an inspection of three fishing vessels off Penang.

The 64-year-old Chinese man surnamed Lin has been accused of confiscating and withholding the passports of 25 foreign workers – Taiwanese and Vietnamese crew members.

Lin appeared in Butterworth Magistrates Court on Tuesday morning to face the 25 charges pressed by Penang Immigration Department.

Lin pleaded not guilty to all charges, Sin Chew Daily (Malaysia) reported on Wednesday.

The shipping agency boss was arrested after the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency inspected three fishing boats in waters off Batu Uban on the eastern coast of Penang Island around midnight on July 27, the court heard.

Authorities later found Lin in possession of 25 foreign passports belonging to Taiwanese and Vietnamese crew members, which is a violation of Section 12A of the Passports Act of 1966.

Lin was released on bail of 25,000 Malaysian ringgits (US$5,841), pending a trial that will be held on September 21.