Friday, January 25, 2008

Day 8-RCI – Lazar Cannot Question Lingam on “fixing of cases & outcome”; Many Coincidences - NZ Holiday Trip; Flew KL-S’pore on Different Planes

Bar barred from pursuing alleged case fixing

R. Surenthira Kumar and Llew-Ann Phang; theSUN

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 24, 2008): The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the controversial video clip today barred the Malaysian Bar from questioning lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam on alleged fixing of judgments in several cases handled by the lawyer over which former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Eusoff Chin had presided;

"There are features in these cases which are disturbing enough to show, (at this point, he referred to the transcript) which states, "Yeah, Eusoff Chin in power, I can straight get Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom." - Bar's Robert Lazar.
"So, now we are going to the …Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom." - Commission member Datuk Mahadev Shankar.
"The focus here was more on whether Lingam should be allowed to be questioned on the
New Zealand holiday. There has been a miscommunication; I did not think you would be going further than that." - Commission chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor.

Commission chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor, who made this ruling, said the questions posed to Lingam cannot go beyond issues related to his trip to
New Zealand in 1994, which the Bar was trying to prove was arranged together with Mohamed Eusoff to establish their "closeness".

Haidar said: "We will not allow the line of questioning which falls outside the Commission’s terms of reference, in particular on the identity of the person speaking on the phone in the video clip allegedly discussing the appointment of judges, to be continued."
Malaysian Bar’s representative Robert Lazar, who handled the questioning, immediately sought clarification.

Lazar:(ABOVE) Is the Commission saying the fixing of cases and their outcome is outside the terms of reference?
Haidar: Yes, its outside.
Lazar: Does this also mean our earlier submission on the alleged fixing of cases is disallowed?
Haidar: Yes, it is disallowed. We hope with the decision, it will now enlighten the counsels the direction that they should take.
Lazar then sought an adjournment to obtain further instructions on this matter.
The Bar representative found himself in quicksand when, after earlier questioning Lingam on his New Zealand trip, he started highlighting several cases, including the M.G.G. Pillai vs Tan Sri Vincent Tan and Insas Bhd vs Megapolitan Nominees Sdn Bhd in which Ayer Molek Rubber Co Bhd was the first defendant.
These cases were handled by Lingam, and the judgments were in his clients' favour. Haidar stopped Lazar from going further.

Haidar: You have gone beyond the New Zealand trip. What is your objective in pursuing this line of questioning?
Lazar: Our objective is to show the witness (Lingam) appeared before Mohamed Eusoff after the holiday in New Zealand.
Commission member Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong asked if Lazar was trying to establish if Lingam should have discharged himself due to his closeness with Mohamed Eusoff and if so, the proposition had been objected to by Lingam’s lawyer R.Thayalan.
He suggested Lazar discontinue with the questioning on the matter until the Commission decided on it.
Another Commission member Datuk Mahadev Shankar said Lazar’s line of questioning has got nothing to do with the issue of appointment of judges, as what transpired in the video clip.

Lazar: There are features in these cases which are disturbing enough to show, (at this point, he referred to the transcript) which states, "Yeah, Eusoff Chin in power, I can straight get Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom."
Mahadev Shankar: So, now we are going to the …Pom, Pom, Pom, Pom.
Shim: We have not made a decision on that, we have to look at the submissions made by Thayalan and the others.
Haidar: The focus here was more on whether Lingam should be allowed to be questioned on the New Zealand holiday. There has been a miscommunication; I did not think you would be going further than that.
The Commission took a brief break before making its decision that effectively prevents Lazar from continuing his line of questioning.

ABOVE: Lingam arriving on Day 8 and BELOW: still smiling inside the lift

= == == = == = = ==
Lingam denies NZ trip jointly arranged
KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 24, 2008): Lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam today denied that his trip to New Zealand in 1994 was arranged together with former Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Eusoff Chin but could not explain why reservations of the flight tickets were faxed to the joint attention of two persons, Rohani and Jayanthi. Malaysian Bar representative Robert Lazar, who was questioning Lingam on the trip to try and show his closeness with Mohamed Eusoff, said the then top judge had earlier testified that Rohani was his secretary.

He then asked Lingam whether he knew anyone by the name of Jayanthi, and the latter replied that he had a secretary by that name.Lingam said he was not aware of the reservation and added: "There are many Indian women with the name of Jayanthi."

Lazar: Can I suggest to you, Rohani and Jayanthi’s name were there because you and Mohamed Eusoff planned the New Zealand trip together?
Lingam: That is not true.
Lazar: So you are telling this Commission that it is a coincidence that you and Mohamed Eusoff used the same travel agent?
Lingam: There is nothing unusual about it. It was not pre-planned, it was a coincidence.

Lazar: Are you saying that your meeting with Mohamed Eusoff at Changi airport (Singapore) was a chance encounter?
Lingam: That is correct.

Lazar: Can I suggest to you, one more reason why it is not a coincidence? The first flight, from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. Mohamed Eusoff and his family left on a Malaysia Airlines flight while you and your family left on a Singapore Airlines flight, because you did not want anyone to spot you and Mohamed Eusoff boarding the same flight.
Lingam: That is not true.
In a reply to another question on the trip, Lingam said he booked the flight to
New Zealand through a travel agency named Udara Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd.
But when Lazar showed him a copy of a
Dec 21, 1994, Bank of Nova Scotia cheque for RM24,912, issued by Lingam to Holiday Travel and Tours Sdn Bhd, the lawyer admitted he had an account with the bank.
This exchange took place on the eighth day of the inquiry into a video clip allegedly featuring a senior lawyer brokering the appointment of judges.
Earlier, to a question from Lazar, Lingam said he and Mohamed Eusoff’s family were not on the same flight to
Auckland, New Zealand, when they boarded the plane in Kuala Lumpur.
But Lingam agreed he and Mohamed Eusoff’s family were on board the same business class flight to
Auckland from Singapore.
Lazar: In Auckland, did you and your family and Mohamed Eusoff’s family stay in the same hotel?
Lingam: That is not true. We never stayed in the same hotel.

Lazar: You are positive Mohamed Eusoff’s family was not in the same hotel as your family?
Lingam: To the best of my recollection, not in the same hotel. It had been 13 years now, I cannot remember.
Lazar: Did you meet up with Mohamed Eusoff and the members of his family while you were in Auckland?
Lingam: To the best of my recollection, I first met him and his family at a zoo in
Auckland and later went to the bird park.
Lazar: Was that the only occasion you and your family were with Mohamed Eusoff or were there other occasions?
Lingam: We did not tag along with him.

Lazar: It will not be right to say that you spent most of the time with Mohamed Eusoff and his family?
Lingam: That is correct.

Lazar continued questioning Lingam on the itinerary of his visit to Auckland, Christchurch and Queestown and whether Mohamed Eusoff also went to the same locations.
Lingam agreed Mohamed Eusoff also travelled to the same spots, but he had a separate itinerary of places to visit during the trip.

He admitted that besides his family and Mohamed Eusoff’s family, his bodyguard Tan Chong Paw, also accompanied them to New Zealand.
He said the trip was pre-planned by him and Mohamed Eusoff separately and it was a coincidence they met in the Changi airport in
Singapore before traveling together to New Zealand.

Lazar asked Lingam about the ride in a van together with Mohamed Eusoff to another tourist attraction site in Queenstown from Christchurch.
Lazar: To say that you tagged along with Mohamed Eusoff is not true?
Lingam: The ride in the van is coincidental. He decided to tag along with me.
Earlier, when the day started, Haidar had asked lawyers representing Mohamed Eusoff for their stand on the questioning of Lingam on the
New Zealand holiday.
Lawyer Zamani Ibrahim said they would align themselves with Lingam’s lawyer, R.Thayalan’s stand and also that of lawyer Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin who represents former Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim.
Both Thayalan and Kamarul Hisham had objected to the line of questioning against Lingam on the aspect of closeness of Lingam with their clients.
The Commission also said they would allow lawyer Wee Choo Keong and his co-counsel John Fan to submit on behalf of V.Thirunama Karasu, the younger brother of Lingam, who ahd offered to testify as a witness.
= = == == = == = ==

Lingam denies NZ trip jointly arranged; Lingam: I was bulshitting and bragging

KUALA LUMPUR (Jan 24, 2008): Lawyer Datuk V.K Lingam told the Royal Commission today he may have been "bullshitting and bragging" when he told businessman Loh Mui Fah that he was speaking to former Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim. "I do not recollect I said that (it was Ahmad Fairuz). Even if I did say, I was - I’m sorry for the word - bullshitting and bragging," he said, in reply to a question by Malaysian Bar Council representative Ranjit Singh. "This was in my house, in the privacy of my room. My house is my castle. I am the king of my house. I can talk whatever rubbish I want in my house as long as I (don’t go out) and get drunk and don’t misbehave."
When Ranjit asked why he chose to speak on judicial appointments in Loh and his son’s presence, Lingam said: "I can choose whatever topic I like. I can even pretend to talk to President Bush if I like."
This drew laughter from the courtroom.

Commission chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor also asked Lingam why he thought his social friends – Loh and his son – had gone against him.
Lingam said he could not think of a reason, adding: "If they believe the video clip was true, they wouldn’t keep it for six years. They would have gone to the police and the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency) and say ‘Charge him! Investigate!’ (But) they kept it for six to seven years."
Commissioner Datuk Mahadev Shankar also sought Lingam’s clarification pertaining to his identity in the video when he did not dispute that he was in the photographs taken on the day.

Mahadev: When it comes to the video your evidence is that it might not have been me, it could be me, it might be somebody else?
Lingam: No, no my learned commissioner. I think you’ve not got it right. I said it looks like me, it sounds like me but I did not say it is not me. I don’t want to say it’s 100% me. The authenticity must be established by my two experts.
Mahadev: How many percent would you say (it is you) then?
Lingam: I don’t want to get into a mathematical debate with my learned commissioners. My experts (say) the local experts’ report is fundamentally flawed and defective. (If my experts) say it’s me 100%, I’ll be the first one to say it.

ABOVE & BELOW: More photos of the Holiday in NZ

Ranjit also submitted 33 photographs of Lingam’s New Zealand trip with Tun Eusoff Chin to the Commission, establishing that it took place and both families went on excursions together, including a fishing trip on a lake during a visit to Queenstown.
Lingam testified he could not remember the locations where the photographs were taken as "it was over 13 years ago."

Fifteen ticket stubs (ABOVE) were also submitted as evidence, prompting commissioners Mahadev and Tan Sri Steve Shim to ask him how he obtained the tickets and pictures. Ranjit replied lawyer Datuk Shafee Abdullah gave them to him.
Lingam also said he told the ACA he did not have records of the numbers for his mobile and house phones for 2001 and 2002, during questioning by Bar representative Robert Lazar.
Lingam said he changed his prepaid mobile number every time he lost his phone and changed his home number as "many prank calls" were made to him and the maids. On why he volunteered Ahmad Fairuz’s name during questioning, Lingam said: "Because it is so widely reported. Malaysiakini said it must have been Tun Ahmad Fairuz. It was in the public domain since Sept 19, 2007. This is a few months down the road. I want to tell the truth and make it clear."

= = == == == = == = == =
Shafee Has Negatives Of Lingam-Eusoff Photos, Says Counsel

January 24, 2008 20:31 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (Bernama) -- Prominent lawyer Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah has in his possession the negatives of 33 photographs of Datuk V.K.Lingam and former chief justice Tun Eusoff Chin taken on a holiday trip in New Zealand in 2001. Malaysian Bar representative Ranjit Singh, who disclosed this at the Royal Commission of Inquiry here today, also said that Muhammad Shafee had given him 15 tickets of the trip to him. Ranjit revealed this after Lingam questioned Ranjit whether they (the Malaysian Bar) had the negatives of the photographs they had produced and tendered in the inquiry as evidence.

Lingam told the inquiry he wanted to have a look at the negatives as the photographs shown to him in the proceedings today were taken 13 years ago and that there was a possibility some photographs could have been taken from the internet and patched up.

To this, Ranjit assured Lingam that the negatives were with Muhammad Shafee who had indicated that he would produce them (the negatives) if the commission required him to do so. On one occasion, commissioner Datuk Mahadev Shankar questioned Ranjit who "Shafee" was, since Ranjit only referred to Muhammad Shafee Abdullah as Shafee when he (Ranjit) informed the commission that he (Ranjit) had obtained the ticket of the Lingam-Eusoff trip from Shafee.

Mahadev: Who is Shafee?
Ranjit: Shafee is a practising lawyer as well as human rights commissioner
Mahadev: And he had all the tickets?

Ranjit: He was also involved in some of the litigation involving Raphael Pura. (In this case, the parties sought to adduce the Lingam-Eusoff Chin trip as evidence but it was thrown out).
Earlier, 33 copies of 5R photographs of Lingam, his wife and two daughters and Eusoff, his wife and his son and a daughter on that trip were produced at the inquiry.

Ranjit claimed that the photographs were taken at the skyline gondola restaurant in Queenstown, and also on a fishing expedition in lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.
However, Lingam said he could not recollect the exact place but said it was in
New Zealand.
There was a roar of laughter during the proceedings when Ranjit mentioned the name of the lake "Wakatipu" during his examination on Lingam on the fishing expedition in Wakatipu lake.

Lingam answered: No I don't recollect the name. It looks like Papua New Guinea!
Ranjit further asked Lingam: "Are you saying you went there (
Papua New Guinea)?"
Lingam replied "the name of the lake " Wakatipu " suggested it. Lingam's answer once again drew laughter at the inquiry"

= == = == ==

January 24, 2008 22:22 PM

Lawyer Wee Apologises To Commission

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (Bernama) -- Lawyer Wee Choo Keong apologised to the Royal Commission of Inquiry today after he was ticked off for releasing his written submission on the relevancy of the "Lingam-Eusoff holiday trip evidence" to the media on Tuesday. His apology was welcomed by the commission and everyone present at the inquiry. The commission had earlier said that Wee's action could amount to misconduct as it (commission) had not decided on which issue Wee could argue. Commission chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor told Wee that as a senior member of the Bar, he should have known that he could not release the document to the media as the commission had not decided which content of the submission was relevant for Wee to make his submission to the inquiry.

The commission had on Tuesday decided that they would go through Wee's submission and pick out the relevant portion of which Wee could submit since the document contains "colourful allegations". Wee is the lawyer for V.K. Thirunama, the younger brother of Datuk V.K. Lingam who is implicated in the video clip showing a man brokering judicial appointments allegedly with a senior judge. Today, there was another round of "exchange of words" between Wee and Haidar but it was not a tense situation. Replying to Haidar's question, Wee said: "The press asked for the document. They wanted to know. So I gave it to them. Haidar repeatedly told Wee that as a senior lawyer he should have known the document could not be released prior to the commission's decision.

Haidar then said that he had to take action to inform the public relations officer (Legal Affairs) in the Prime Minister's Department to tell the media not to publish the document. Wee replied that the inquiry was an open hearing and not a court of law, adding that the public had the right to know.
"But we haven't made our decision. What is the effect? Does it amount to misconduct? What is the reason for you to release the document?" asked Haidar. Wee then said: "If the commissioner is upset about it, then I am sorry." Wee's apology was applauded by everyone at the inquiry. Haidar said: "Thank you, It's very nice."

= == = == = ==

= == = == = == = == == = == Bernama’s Brief accounts

January 24, 2008 19:21 PM
Haidar Disallows Line Of Questioning On Fixing Cases

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (Bernama) --The Royal Commission of Inquiry today ruled that it would not allow a Malaysian Bar counsel's line of questioning on the issue of fixing cases. In his decision, commission chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Nor said the issue of fixing cases pointed out by counsel Robert Lazar, fell outside its (commission's) terms of reference and should not be allowed to be put to witnesses. "We have decided, and we are of the view that the terms of reference should be read together with the subject matter of the video clip, and we have to investigate its content, in relation to the brokering of the appointmet of judges," he said.

Later, when Lazar sought clarification relating to their decision barring them from questioning Datuk V. K. Lingam on the issue of fixing cases, Commissioner Datuk Mahadev Shankar said Lazar was entitled to questioning on the passages highlighted in the transcript of the conversation which touched on fixing of cases.
However, Shankar added, Lazar's question must be strictly confined to the relationship between former chief justice Tun Eusoff Chin and Lingam, and not touch on the fixing of cases. Earlier, Lazar queried the 13th witness, Datuk V. K. Lingam, on several cases which he (Lingam) had appeared before former chief justice Tun Eusoff Chin.

Lingam said he had appeared before Eusoff when he (Eusoff) was the high court judge in several cases, including cases pertaining to the retrenchment of workers and income tax. To another question by Lazar whether he (Lingam) was engaged to handle a court case involving a very high-profile libel suit involving businessman Tan Sri Vincent Tan, prior to the New Zealand holiday trip, Lingam said: "It is correct." Lingam agreed with Lazar that the suit filed in 1994, and the judgement of the case entered on Oct 22, the same year, after a full trial, damages were awarded in favour of Tan amounting to RM10 million.

Lazar: The judgement (was) delivered on Oct 22, 1994... do you agree that the case attracted a large number of people?
Lingam: Yes.
Lazar: Do you agree that it was a much-talked about case?
Linggam: That, I do not know.
Lazar: One of the reasons was because of the amount of damages, that it was ground-breaking as far as Malaysians... were concerned?
Lingam: Yes, one view to look at.
Replying to Lazar's question whether he (Lingam) agreed that the judgement by Tan Sri Mokhtar Sidin started the trend of awarding mega damages by the court, Lingam replied: "Possible"
Lazar also pointed out to Lingam that the case then was brought up for an appeal in the Court of Appeal. However, it was dismissed on
Dec 7, 2000, by a panel of three members, including Eusoff Chin.
Lingam said: "I know it was dismissed, but I do not remember the date."
Asked by Lazar whether Eusoff informed the parties in the appeal proceeding that he (Eusoff) and Lingam were having a holiday together, Lingam said: "To my knowledge, he did not."
Asked further whether he (Lingam) informed the counsel for the appellant that he had a holiday trip with Eusoff, Lingam replied: "No, I did not".
Lazar then pointed out another case that he handled before Eusoff in 1995, representing two parties, namely in the case of Insas Berhad versus Megapolitan Nominees Sdn Bhd.

Lingam said that he was instructed to handle the case by Insas's director (at that time).
Asked by Lazar whether the case also involved Ayer Molek Bhd, Lingam replied: "It involves the shares in Ayer Molek".

Lazar: Was it a high-profile case?
Lingam: It became high-profile.
At this juncture, Haidar interjected that Lazar had gone too far from the objective of the commission, by asking those questions.
= = = == == = == == == = ==

Day 8 – RCI - January 24, 2008 13:38 PM

Lingam-Eusoff Trip Was Coincidental, Court Told
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (Bernama) -- Lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam told the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the controversial video clip Thursday that his holiday with former chief justice Tun Eusoff Chin in New Zealand in 1994 was a coincidence. Lingam, 57, denied that he stayed at the same hotel with Eusoff in Auckland and Christchurch. He said he did not follow Eusoff everywhere in New Zealand except for a few accidental meetings at the zoo and bird park in Auckland and a few other places. "I cannot recollect the exact time we decided to visit New Zealand but we (Lingam and his wife) thought that it was the best time since it was the Christmas and New Year holidays. "Because I was so busy, as well as my wife, who is running her dental clinic, our relatives who just got back from New Zealand told us we should visit the place," Lingam said. The inquiry is to determine, among others, the authenticity of the video clip purported showing Lingam brokering judicial appointments over the phone.

= == = == =
January 24, 2008 12:00 PM

Lingam Must Answer Questions On His New Zealand Trip With Eusoff

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 (Bernama) --The Royal Commission of Inquiry ruled Thursday that lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam, who is implicated in the controversial video clip, must answer questions relating to his 1994 holiday trip in New Zealand with former chief justice Tun Eusoff Chin. The five-member panel headed by chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohamed Noor unanimously allowed the Malaysian Bar's application to question Lingam on the matter. Bar representative Robert Lazar had said that evidence on that trip was relevant to show the close relationship between the two men to prove the existence of interference in judicial appointments and case fixings. Lazar had said that those facts should be allowed into the inquiry because they were referred to in the conversation in the video clip and therefore were within the scope of the commission's terms of reference.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry was set up to determine, among others, the authencity of the video clip allegedly showing Lingam brokering judicial appointments over the phone. However, Lingam, in his testimony, said he was unable to say whether the man talking on the phone in the clip was him and his stand was that "It looks like me, It sounds like me". Lingam's counsel, R.Thayalan, had objected to the line of questioning on the New Zealand trip, saying that the evidence on the trip was beyonde scope of the commission's terms of reference and that the inquiry should be be confined to evidence on the appointment of judges. Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin, counsel for former chief justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, purported to be the man on the other end the telephone, and conducting officers Datuk Nordin Hassan and Datuk Azmi

Ariffin adopted a similar stand.
The conducting officers said it was certainly not the purpose of the establishment of the commission to ascertain or determine the truth or otherwise of all matters mentioned in the transcript of the conversation in the video clip. Today, Eusoff's recently-appointed counsel, Zamani Ibrahim told the commission that they also took a similar stand as Thayalan. Previously, Eusoff, who was questioned on the trip when he took the witness stand last Friday, was not represented by counsel. The commission put off his testimony to allow him to engage counsel.
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