Prominient lawyer was not part of the investigation

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20  –  Prominent lawyer Tan Sri Cecil Abraham was not part of the graftbuster review team that had closed the file on P. Balasubramaniam’s controversial second sworn statement over the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Operations Review Panel (PPO) said today.

Abraham had been named as the mystery lawyer suspected to have drafted the private investigator’s (picture) contradictory second statutory declaration (SD) by several high-profile figures questioning a possible conflict of interest as the former also sits on board of the MACC review panel.

“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, 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 today.

Hadenan said the case, which was linked to that of carpet merchant Deepak Jaikishan Rewachand, had been presented at a PPO pre-meeting on November 8.

However, he was silent on the allegations surrounding Abraham.

The Malaysian Insider had contacted Abraham’s law firm, Zul Rafique & Partners, but was unable to reach the lawyer for comment.

“PPO’s membership comprises from those with expertise and represent professional bodies that make decisions without interfering on any one side. Therefore, any statement that doubts the transparency and independence of the PPO is much regretted,” Hadenan said.

The MACC review panel’s immediate response comes on the heels of a flurry of questions surrounding Abraham’s possible conflict of interest as a lawyer purported to have drafted Balasubramaniam’s second SD as well as a member of the review panel that had closed the investigation file on the case.

A cloud of mystery had 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 a harried press conference on July 4, 2008, Balasubramaniam, accompanied by lawyer 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 one, 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 MACC adviser, Tan Sri Robert Phang had earlier today publicly named Abraham in a news conference as the lawyer in question.

Three others have raised the issue publicly – carpet merchant Deepak Jaikishan, former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, and a political activist, Haris Ibrahim.

Deepak, who is also in the centre of the controversy surrounding Balasubramaniam’s two statutory declarations (SDs), had recently slipped out the name of the lawyer behind the second SD during an interview with PAS organ Harakah.

But when the interview was carried on PAS’ “TVPAS” channel on Youtube, the lawyer’s name was muted out.

Politician Zaid, who was the de facto law minister in the Abdullah administration, had also called for a probe over the allegations that is being raised in the run-up to key national polls.

Haris, a former lawyer, has written in to the Bar Council demanding it investigate the lawyer for misconduct.  –  MI