Nov 25, 09 3:05pm
Any reasonable person would draw the conclusion that Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is somehow linked to the disappearance of P Balasubramaniam, according to the private investigator’s lawyer.
“The facts seem to point to the possibility that they wanted him out of the way and delegated this job to others close to them to execute,” said Americk Singh Sidhu (left) in an interview with Malaysiakini.
“As matters stand, I am concerned about the involvement of Nazim (Razak), Najib’s younger brother. The question is why would he have an interest in Bala’s disappearance if it were not to protect his brother?” asked Americk.
Balasubramaniam recently emerged from hiding to reveal that he had met Nazim, an architect, the night before he made a dramatic reversal and recanted his first statutory declaration in which he alleged that Najib had close ties with murdered Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Balasubramaniam also claimed that he was offered RM5 million by one Deepak, a businessman close to Najib’s wife, Rosmah Mansor, to retract his first statutory declaration.
Najib had repeatedly denied speculations that he was behind Balasubramaniam’s retraction.
In the interview, Americk recounted how he was introduced to Balasubramaniam, on his reaction to the retraction of Balasubramaniam’s first statutory declaration and his subsequent meeting with the former police officer after he emerged from hiding a year later.
The lawyer also revealed that the video recording of his interview with Balasubramaniam three months ago was secretly taken as an “insurance in the event he was apprehended by the parties involved in his departure from this country over a year ago”.
“He did not know he was being filmed at that time but we did inform him of this later and he understood why we did it,” said Americk.
According to him, while Balasubramaniam may have committed an offence under the Statutory Declarations Act 1960 for giving conflicting statutory declarations, he could nevertheless defend himself against the charge as it “would appear he was coerced, intimidated and/or forced to sign the second statutory declaration under duress”.
But those who allegedly instigated the swearing of the false second statutory declaration – Deepak, one ASP Suresh and lawyer M Arunampalam – are also liable to criminal charges for abetment and conspiracy, added Americk.
“In so far as Nazim is concerned, he was involved in criminal intimidation of Bala besides a possibility of being roped into the abetment/conspiracy charges arising from the creation of the second false statutory declaration.”
The following is the first of a two-part interview:
Malaysiakini: When did you first meet Bala?
Americk: I first met Bala sometime in April or May 2008. I was having some early evening drinks with several lawyer friends of mine at ‘Fogles’, which is a delicatessen/bar at Plaza Damas. We were later joined by ASP Suresh and Bala.
One of the lawyers I was with, M Puravalen, introduced me to them. I had no idea who they were before that. I had not been following the Altantuya case very closely so I had not realised that Abdul Razak Baginda had a private investigator assisting him and this was Bala.
I then started enquiring about this whole saga out of curiosity.
Puravalen had been involved in the Altantuya case as he was the first counsel Abdul Razak Baginda had engaged before he was discharged and a new counsel engaged, and so he enlightened me as regards the more salient facts.
I am not sure how ASP Suresh featured in all this but he appeared to be a good friend of Bala’s and appeared to have his interests at heart.
Eventually some of the other lawyers left and the restaurant started closing so we decided to move on to ‘The Backyard’ pub in Sri Hartamas, which is only a short distance away from Plaza Damas. There were four of us … Bala, myself, ASP Suresh and Valen.
We were drinking and still discussing the whole Altantuya murder case as I found it fascinating. Sometime later (Subang MP and lawyer) Sivarasa Rasiah walked in. I know Siva as he is also a friend, but we are not very close. We asked him to join us. He also listened to what Bala had to say and after that suggested Bala get someone to record everything.
Somehow I was chosen to do this as everyone felt I was the one lawyer who did not have an agenda in this matter as I was someone neutral. I agreed and that was when I made an appointment for Bala to come to my office so that I could record all he had to say.
The recordings occurred about two or three times over a period of about two months and lasted a few hours each time.
How did you feel when Bala came out with the second statutory declaration? Did you attempt to contact him?
I received a call from a member of the press at about 9.30am on July 4, 2008 asking me why my client, Bala, had called a press conference for 11am that morning at the Prince hotel.
I was a little surprised as I had no idea what this was about so I proceeded to call Bala, who did not answer his phone. I then proceeded to make further enquiries only to find out that Bala had purportedly been represented by another lawyer, one Arunampalam who had spoken to the press at that press conference on behalf of Bala and had said that Bala was retracting the contents of his first SD as he had been forced to sign it under duress.
When I came to know of this press conference and what transpired thereat, I was absolutely flabbergasted. Bala and I had spent two months and many hours over the first SD to ensure it was absolutely correct and for him to deny the contents in the space of 24 hours did seem incredible to me.
Bala had anticipated that he would be arrested by the police after releasing the first statutory declaration and he told me so. This is why he had handed over his mobile phone to me for safe keeping before he left my office the evening before as he did not want the police to download information from it.
We were therefore preparing for his arrest and then to go to the police station he was being held at to represent him. I never expected him to have been ‘hijacked’ by the personalities involved, and I am sure, neither did he.
It is also worth mentioning here that this lawyer, Arunampalam, was not engaged by Bala to represent him at the press conference at the Prince hotel despite the fact that Arunampalam has said Bala called him and asked him to do so. This is a blatant lie.
Bala does not know this man and had never met him prior to that press conference. In fact, it is well-known that Arunampalam does legal work for Deepak and this can be substantiated quite easily.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bala was forced, coerced, threatened and intimidated into signing the second statutory declaration.
Bala subsequently disappeared for one year. When did you meet him next?
Bala called me around July 19, 2009. I was at that time in a little village called Llanwarne on the Welsh border staying with some friends of mine. My wife was also with me. I was surprised to hear his voice as I hadn’t heard from him since he left my office with ASP Suresh in the early evening of July 3, 2008.
He started off the conversation by apologising to me for any trouble he had caused. He said he was returning to Malaysia on July 28 and wanted to see me. I informed him I was only returning to Kuala Lumpur on Aug 2 and landing in the early hours of the morning. He gave me a contact number to call and I said I would call him after I landed to arrange a meeting.
At approximately 9am on Aug 2, 2009, I called the number Bala had given me and we arranged to meet in about two days’ time. We left the exact time and place to be decided later.
On Aug 4, we finally arranged to meet at my apartment in Ampang Hilir at about 1pm the next day. As Bala wanted to tell me everything that had happened to him since I saw him last, I thought it would be best to have some witnesses present and so I called my counsel, Manjeet Singh Dhillon and another lawyer, Amarjit Singh Sidhu. They both turned up at about 12pm and we waited for Bala to arrive.
Bala eventually turned up a little later than expected as he was having difficulty locating my apartment. He arrived with two other Indian gentlemen who were introduced to us but I cannot recall their names.
He then spent about three hours telling us exactly what had happened to him. During this time he was constantly questioned by myself, Manjeet and Amarjit.
We had arranged for a concealed audio visual device to record this conversation as we felt Bala may have needed some insurance in the event he was apprehended by the parties involved in his departure from this country over a year ago. He did not know he was being filmed at that time but we did inform him of this later and he understood why we did it.
Were you convinced by Bala’s story? What documentary evidence did you have?
After approximately three hours of conversation, we were more than convinced that what he was telling us was the truth. It took quite a long time to unravel the details as Bala was recalling events which had taken place over a year ago coupled with the fact that there were so many details.
At that stage, Bala did not reveal any documentary evidence as he was still very apprehensive of the entire situation but he did tell us details of all the evidence he had from bank account statements, passports, flight tickets and photocopied cheques paid to him.
We therefore asked him to produce this evidence and he assured us he would.
What was your advice to Bala at the meeting? Was there a follow-up meeting after that?
After digesting everything we were told, we felt it was necessary to record the events which had taken place in a suitable, chronological and coherent format as we were concerned the matter was rather serious.
We advised Bala to hand over all documents to us to enable us to further verify his story. He promised us he would but said he would have to go to his wife’s bank (EON) to get her statements for the past year and that other documents were still in India. He did however have copies of his family’s passports and copies of the cheques Deepak had signed. He eventually produced these documents to me by hand, by post and by fax.
We advised Bala to behave normally with Deepak and ASP Suresh and not to let them know he had seen us. He told us he would be returning to India shortly and would contact us again. From then on, all contact with Bala was by phone and email.
As a lawyer, do you think Bala has committed any offences?
Technically, he may have committed an offence under the Statutory Declarations Act 1960 by swearing a false declaration. By this I mean the second SD, not the first SD. However under the circumstances, he would have a good defence to a charge of that nature as it would appear he was coerced, intimidated and/or forced to sign the second SD under duress.
Making a false second SD technically exposes Bala to criminal prosecution. It would equally make the ones who instigated the swearing of the false second SD [Deepak/ Arunampalam/Suresh], liable to criminal charges for abetment and conspiracy.
If we refer to section 3 of the SD Act 1960, this states that SDs made under the Act are such declarations as are referred to in sections 199 and 200 of the Penal Code, and where false would be punishable under that Act.
Section 199 of the Penal Code reads:
“Whoever, in any declaration made or subscribed by him, which declaration any court, or any public servant or other person, is bound or authorised by law to receive as evidence of any fact, makes any statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false or does not believe to be true, touching any point material to the object for which the declaration is made or used, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.”
This provision is then followed by Section 200 of the Penal Code which states that whoever corruptly uses or attempts to use as true any such declaration knowing the same to be false in any material point, shall be punished in the same manner as if he gave false evidence.
Even if we limit ourselves to these provisions alone, offences are clearly shown to have been committed by Deepak, Suresh and Arunampalam. Bala may well have a defense of duress but that would be a matter of evidence.
In so far as Nazim (Razak) is concerned, he was involved in criminal intimidation of Bala besides a possibility of being roped into the abetment/conspiracy charges arising from the creation of the second false SD.
Note also that under section 10[b] of the ACA 1997, it is an offence to corruptly give to any person an inducement in such circumstances as those in which Bala was induced to make the false second SD. Deepak, Suresh and Nazim could well be prosecuted under these provisions.
With the evidence that you and the other lawyers have seen from Bala and based on Bala’s own explanation, do you think the PM (Najib Abdul Razak) and his wife (Rosmah) are personally involved in this (matter)? Or was it done on their behalf by someone?
If you mean Bala’s disappearance, then the facts seem to point to the possibility that they wanted him out of the way and delegated this job to others close to them to execute.
As matters stand, I am concerned about the involvement of Nazim, Najib’s younger brother. The question is why would he have an interest in Bala’s disappearance if it were not to protect his brother?