Malaysian carpet dealer names a new figure in scandal
Written by John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel Saturday, 22 December 2012 18:00
Media MonitorDeepak Jaikishan names well connected lawyer in murder cover-up
Perhaps the most crucial – and quoted – document seeking to tie Najib Tun Razak, the current prime minister of Malaysia, to a murdered Mongolian beauty named Altantuya Shaariibuu was a sworn declaration filed on July 1, 2008 by a Kuala Lumpur-based private detective named Perumal Balasubramaniam.
That document, which detailed allegations of an affair between Najib, the then-defense minister and the 28-year-old woman, lasted just three days before it was dramatically reversed. Police allegedly picked up Balasubramaniam and took him to a Kuala Lumpur police station where he was told his family was in serious danger if he didn't reverse his statement.
The private detective was then taken to a room at the Hilton Hotel in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, where accordingly, on July 4, he signed a new six-page sworn statement in which he said, among other things, that "I wish to retract the entire contents of my Statutory Declaration dated 1July 2008. I was compelled to affirm the said Statutory Declaration dated 1July 2008 under duress."
Balasubramaniam now says he didn't write that statement. He never saw it, he said, until it was presented to him in the Hilton.
Four and a half years later, the name of the person who wrote the reversal is believed to be that of Cecil Abraham (left), a senior partner with the law firm of Zul Rafique & Partners of Kuala Lumpur, one of the country's most prominent law firms and one that is a major beneficiary of government-related legal business. It is also a firm with considerable experience in defamation cases.
Abraham's name surfaced last week with another explosive revelation by Kuala Lumpur-based businessman Deepak Jaikishan, who told the Parti Islam se-Malaysia party newspaper Harakah that the attorney had written the document along with his son, and that the son had brought it to Balasubramaniam and the people who were holding him at the Hilton. According to Balasubramiam's lawyer, Americk Sidhu, Deepak was present in the hotel room when his brother, Dinesh, brought the declaration for Bala to sign. Bala wasn't allowed access to his own lawyer.
Since late November, Deepak has met with a string of opposition and independent websites to give progressively more damaging details about Najib's involvement in suppressing Balasbramaniam's original declaration, bringing Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor and his brother into the matter. With naming Abraham as the man who wrote the reversal of the declaration, he now takes it further into the United Malays National Organization power structure.
Abraham is both a datuk and a tan sri, honorific titles conferred on politically or socially prominent individuals by Malaysia's sultan. As an indication of his influence, no opposition publication was willing to print his name for days, including Harakah, only referring to him in various ways as an important figure. Abraham is considered one of the quietly most politically powerful figures in the country, a friend of the top members of UMNO including Hishamuddin Hussein, the Home Affairs minister, as well as Najib. He sits on a wide range of boards and committees including one that determines which cases are refused or initiated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Committee.
If indeed Abraham did write Bala's repudiation document, the besieged private detective never saw him – or the document – until it was given to him to sign. However, the Commissioner for Oaths who visited Bala in the room in which he was being held in at the Hilton to attest that it was his signature on the document was Zainal Abidin Muryat, a commissioner of oaths from Abraham's law firm, Zul Rafique & Partners.
"Let me make it very clear that my client does not know the identity of the lawyer(s) who drafted this 2nd statutory declaration," said Americk Sidhu. "He had not instructed any lawyer to do so. This is because the contents of his first statutory declaration were true to the best of his knowledge and belief. Therefore there was never any necessity to alter the contents of his first one. However, Bala was forced to sign a second one because of a threat to the safety of his wife and children."
After Balasubramaniam fled for Chennai, reportedly accompanied by his family a promise from Nazim Razak, the prime minister's brother, of RM5 million to keep his mouth shut, he held multiple press conferences to say he had been intimidated into reversing himself, and called repeatedly for an investigation of his charges by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).
Abraham also sits on the Operation Review Panel of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which had the responsibility to examine Balasubramaniam's charges. The MACC has repeatedly turned him down. An MACC spokesman denied that Abraham had any say in declining an investigation.
Particularly since Deepak Jaikishan start issuing his spectacular charges in late November, the question of Balasubramaniam's first statutory declaration has assumed increasing relevance to the case. Altantuya was murdered on Oct. 19, 2006 by two of Najib's bodyguards. One of Najib's best friends, Abdul Razak Baginda, was initially charged with the crime. He had been Altantuya's lover, but jilted her.
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