Thursday, July 21, 2011

‘The straw that broke the camel’s back’

Corrupt Barisan Nasional l Teoh Beng Hock -  PETALING JAYA: The Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) concluded that the “fourth interrogation session” drove Teoh Beng Hock to plunge to his death.
Calling it the “final straw which broke the camel’s back,” the report claimed that the session must have wrecked the 30-year-old political aide mentally and physically.
The 124-page report also fingered three Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers as the main culprits and assigned them nicknames. The report was released by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz today.
In stating that Teoh had to deal with “interrogation heavyweights”, the RCI labelled Selangor MACC deputy director Hishammuddin Hashim as the “arrogant leader (who would have no qualms in lying as long as the ends were achieved, regardless of the means employed)”.

Whereas his subordinates Arman Alies – “who would manipulate his witness to obtain evidence” – and Mohd Ashraf Mohd Yunus – “who was Machiavellian in his method to secure evidence” – were termed as the “bully” and “abuser” respectively.
“Having considered all the evidence in its entirety, we found that Teoh was driven to commit suicide by the aggressive, relentless, oppressive and unscrupulous interrogation to which he was subjected by certain officers of the MACC who were involved in the ongoing operation by the Selangor MACC on the night of July 15, 2009 and into the morning of July 16,” read the report.
The RCI theorised that Hishamuddin’s stubbornness and his need to overcome his dissappointment at the negative results obtained from previous witnesses would have spurred him to resort to a more personal and aggressive interrogation of Teoh since the latter was a vital link to state exco Ean Yong Hian Wah, and “if anything was to stick, it would have been through Teoh”.
In view of this, the commissioners felt that Teoh was treated more like a suspect than a witness.
As for the “fourth interrogation”, the commissioners believed that it involved Hishammuddin, Ashraf and the case’s investigating officer, Mohd Anuar Ismail.
“The acts committed by these three persons were most probably in the form of another round of intensive interrogation of Teoh to coerce him into making a statement that it was Ean Yong who directed him to commit unlawful acts in handling the allocation.
“This session must have been very taxing on Teoh, both physically and mentally. He had been deprived of sleep throughout the night and into the morning and had to endure persistent, aggressive and unscrupulous questioning. His physical condition, as described by Ashraf when fetching him the glass of water, was that Teoh had moved to sit in an upright position, very slowly.
“This is the fourth interrogation session to our minds (and) must have been the final straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The RCI also stated that Anuar was named because the investigating officer’s alibi had been proven to be false.
“As disclosed during the inquiry, hardly anyone saw him sleeping at the place he claimed to be at between the hours after 3.30am and 7am on July 16. Further, Anuar lied about the role he had played in order to cover up for Hishammudin. And on top of these factors, he was a trusted senior officer of Hishammudin who was prepared to sacrifice himself for Hishammudin.”
In conclusion, the RCI said: “By the time the fourth or final stage of the interrogation was over, Teoh would have been almost a mental and physical wreck.”
Below are some of the other points in the report:
Blue wall of silence

The RCI stated that the conferment of extensive powers on MACC without checks and balances would inevitably result in those powers being abused, and such abuse becomes difficult to prove as the only witnesses would be those officers whose conduct was being probed.
“The investigation into this will bring in its wake the inherent and harsh realities of meeting ‘a blue wall of silence’ based on brotherhood ties among those officers. The characteristics of this ‘blue wall of silence’ came amply into play in the present case as evidenced by untruths spouted by MACC officers to cover-up the nefarious activities that took place on July 15 and 16.
“This clinging to brotherhood ties by those officers has resulted in our facing extreme difficulties in gathering evidence to arrive at the truth.”
First “calming therapy”
The RCI stated that Teoh was first subjected to a “calming therapy” designed by investigating officer Anuar.
“Instead of leaving him alone to ease his nerves as a reasonable man would leave him to do, Teoh was verbally assaulted by a pack of officers numbering six to seven at one time or other during this period who were told to ‘chat’ with him ‘to calm him down’. Repeated questions from them of his background were asked. This could have been easily secured by (another officer Mohd) Azhar (Abang Mentaril) who was officially told by Anuar to carry out this task.”
The RCI said that Anuar had pleaded ignorance to this “inhumane treatement” and ruled that it was done with one objective – to break down Teoh’s resistance and force him to say what they wanted.
The commissioners postulated that this intimidating technique would have had a profound effect on the victim.
Second interrogation by the ‘bully’ and ‘abuser’

The RCI concluded that a second “interview” of Teoh was more like an inquisition and both officers Arman and Ashraf had acted the role of inquisitors.
The commissioners also questioned why both had instilled doubts and fears into Teoh by declaring that he might have gone against a treasury directive which states that three tenders must be called before a contract could be awarded. This was not true as Ean Yong had the powers to directly award any contractor projects under RM20,000.
“(If they had known this), then they were intentionally exploiting Teoh’s lack of knowledge or ignorance with false information deliberately aimed at confusing him. This was deplorable and must have caused severe anxiety to Teoh…”
The RCI also said that extracting Teoh’s email password would have caused him anxiety and was a “gross violation of a person’s rights”.
Threats of physical harm
The RCI opined that both Arman and Ashraf were specially selected by Hishamuddin – “though disguised as instructions coming from (Selangor MACC’s head of investigations) Hairul Ilham Hamzah” – to carry out the interrogation.
However, the RCI concluded that no physical violence was applied on Teoh but threats of physical harm were most probably used by Arman and Ashraf when interrogating him.
Third interrogation
The RCI was “puzzled” that Teoh was interrogated for a third time by officer Mohd Nadzri Ibrahim, who spent more than two hours grilling him despite Teoh having already been questioned by Arman and Ashraf.
The commisioners suggested that either “Arman or Ashraf had not been asking questions relating to the documents, thus requiring Nadzri to start afresh” or “Nadzri deliberately prolonged this process to torture Teoh mentally and disorientate him to agree to turn against his boss out of despair.”
The RCI said the repeated questioning contravened Section 30 of the MACC Act on taking statements.
“We are of the view that what Anuar did by sending in a group of interrogators under the pretence of calming Teoh, followed by Arman and Ashraf’s interrogation or inquisition of Teoh was against the law. Such unlawful intimidatory tactics would have grave consequences upon his mind and would have been a culminating factor that drove him to suicide.”
The RCI concluded that Teoh was “utterly frustrated and disappointed and angry” and due to the repeated interrogations and a rude remark from Nadzri, he would have wanted to “escape” from it all.
Teoh was never released from custody
The RCI concluded that Teoh was never released and was still detained by Selangor MACC as other witnesses were also not allowed to go home and “his attendence was practically effected by force although claimed otherwise and therefore the panel cannot percieve Teoh would have wanted to stay a minute longer if he was free”.
Hishamuddin – the arrogant leaderc
The RCI found that the deputy director was actively involved in the entire investigation of Teoh. He was described as a workaholic, whose presence struck fear in his subordinates.
“We found him to be arrogant, given to falsehoods, untruthful and uncompromising in his stand. His falsehoods, particularly of his non-active involvement in the entire operation at the material time, were exposed from contradictory statements he made before us.”
Pornthip’s view ‘extremely speculative’

The RCI had rejected Thai forensic pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanansunan’s view that Teoh suffered pre-fall injuries.
“We found Pornthip’s view to be extremely speculative and therefore unacceptable. In our opinion, this light pink stain on the neck was more certainly due to post-mortem staining. It could not have been the result of a bruise as claimed by Pornthip since it was not seen by Dr Prashant (Naresh Samberker, from University Malaya Medical Centre) and Dr Khairul (Azman Ibrahim from Klang Hospital).”
The commissioners said their view was strengthened by the MACC-hired UK pathologist Dr Peter Vanezis’ statement that if Teoh was stranggled prior to death, there would have been red spots in his eyes.
Suicide note not considered
Due to the various shortcomings in an expert verifying the authenticity of the so-called suicide note written by Teoh as well as the undue delay in tendering the note, the RCI had attached no weight to the note in the deliberation of the case.
DAP’s modus operandi
Meanwhile, the RCI also found it odd that DAP reimbursed contractors and suppliers
“We find this (DAP paying advances for state projects) rather odd when the parties involved in this process were unable to exclude political parties from involvement in government projects… A political party should not be involed in assisting financially in such activities. Otherwise it will attract accusations, as it did in this case, that such fund or part of it was channeled back to the political party.
“We are unable to comprehend here as to why a contractor or an agent undertaking to stage a programme or to carry out a small project required the financial assistance of a political party to tide him over for the period while awaiting payment from the district office..”
Also read:
RCI: ‘Weak-willed’ Teoh committed suicide
Teoh’s sister: My brother was murdered 

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