KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — The Bar Council was today chided for dragging its feet over the identity of the mystery lawyer behind P. Balasubramaniam's controversial second sworn statement into the 2006 murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, despite the number of clues at its disposal.
Lawyer Americk Singh Sidhu, who is acting for the former private detective, told The Malaysian Insider the Bar Council should speed up its investigation on the high-profile case that had previously been linked to several high-ranking government officials and resurfaced recently in the run-up to the 13th general elections.
“I'm suggesting the Bar Council was a little hesitant in investigating this matter,” he said when contacted today.
The Bar Council, a statutory body regulating the professional conduct of some 14,000 legal practitioners in the country, has said it is investigating the possibility of misconduct in the drafting of Balasubramaniam’s second statutory declaration (SD), which contradicts his previous sworn statement made just a day earlier over the death of the Mongolian translator hired to assist in the government's acquisition of two French submarines several years ago.
“They can pass the matter to the disciplinary board for action,” Americk said, adding that the Bar Council could of its own volition push for an inquiry panel to be set up.
A cloud of mystery has been hanging over the identity of the lawyer who had drawn up Balasubramaniam's second SD, dated a day after his first on July 3, 2008, regarding Altantuya’s 2006 murder, for which two elite police commandos have been convicted and are facing death sentences.
In an open letter published earlier today, Americk said M. Arunampalam's role as the lawyer who had drafted Balasubramaniam's second SD had been dispelled by well-connected businessman Deepak Jaikishan who is also in the centre of the controversy surrounding Balasubramaniam’s two SDs.
He said the clues were all assembled before the Bar Council to act and advised the body to check out lawyers who had previously worked for the politicians named in Balasubramaniam's (picture) SD to question them in an inquiry.
He pointed that only a handful of lawyers would have access to a prominent personality that had been named in Balasubramaniam's SDs out of the 14,000 members of the Malaysian Bar.
Americk pointed out that Deepak had cleared Arunampalam - whom the carpet dealer had engaged to handle his property transactions previously - as a likely candidate for drafting the second SD.
“We have now narrowed down the range of potential participants. This should assist the Bar Council in its endeavours to trace the culprit(s) who unilaterally and without instructions, drafted a false statutory declaration for my client to sign under circumstances in which the question of voluntariness remains highly suspect,” he had said in his open letter today.
Americk had previously called on the Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee to “organise a simple email to be sent to all members of the Malaysian Bar requesting that the member(s) responsible for drafting that 2nd SD do the right thing and make themselves known, as it appears innocent parties may be publicly falling victim to the blame game and finger pointing which has emerged since Deepak’s revelations, to which I certainly do not subscribe”.
In a harried press conference on July 4, 2008, Balasubramaniam, accompanied by M. Arulampalam, came out to withdraw his first SD, where he negated the contents of the first statement, claiming it had been signed under duress.
He then produced a second statement, which he claimed later in 2009 had been prepared by another lawyer, whom he did not meet with and who did not consult him when drafting the document.
A former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) adviser, Tan Sri Robert Phang, had publicly named Tan Sri Cecil Abraham, who sits on the graftbuster’s Operations Review Panel (PPO), as the lawyer in question in a news conference last month.
Three others have raised the issue publicly – carpet merchant Deepak Jaikishan, former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, and a political activist, Haris Ibrahim.
Haris, a former lawyer, has written in to the Bar Council demanding it investigate the lawyer for misconduct.
But Americk, who said he knew Abraham personally and described him as “someone who possesses such an ingrained sense of dignity, integrity and professionalism”, pointed out there was no concrete evidence to show the latter had drafted Balasubramaniam’s second SD.
Americk stressed that the former private investigator had not met the person who drew up the second statement that he claimed he had been coerced to sign and was clueless as to the person’s identity.
The MACC’s PPO also spoke out on the issue yesterday, saying that Abraham had not been part of the review team that had closed the investigation file on Balasubramaniam’s SD.
“PPO had agreed with the decision by the deputy public prosecutor to stop investigating the case on grounds the main witnesses’ testimonies were not supported by any other witness and the credibility of the main witnesses were disputable.
“PPO wishes to state that one of the panel members, Tan Sri Datuk Cecil Abraham was not present and was not involved in that meeting,” Tan Sri Hadenan Abdul Jalil, chairman of the eight-man MACC operations review panel, said in a media statement last month.