Friday July 4, 2008 MYT 8:46:04 PM
I believe he was coerced, says lawyer Americk
By SHAHANAAZ HABIB and PAUL CHOO
KUALA LUMPUR: Americk Singh Sidhu, the lawyer who had prepared the first statutory declaration for private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, is convinced his client was intimidated to retract his declaration alleging the Deputy Prime Minister had a sexual relationship with Altantuya Shaariibuu.
He believed the private eye had been coerced "by either threats or promises as I can think of no other reason."
He stressed that his client had made the first sworn declaration voluntarily without duress.
He said he had first met Balasubramaniam two months ago at a restaurant where he was asked by the latter to help draft a formal document on the Altantuya case.
The sworn declaration was made over a period of one-and-half months in several meetings with Balasubramaniam lasting hours, he said.
"I had no reason to doubt that what Balasubramaniam told me was anything other the truth.
"I was under the impression that he was a trustworthy person and what he said was what he perceived with his own senses," he said Friday evening at a press conference at the PKR headquarters.
Also present was Americk's counsel Manjit Singh Dhillon and PKR vice-president R. Sivarasa.
On Thursday, Balasubramaniam said the police had omitted vital information about Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's relationship with the murdered Mongolian translator including the fact that she wanted a US$500,000 commission for helping secure a submarine deal in Paris.
The private eye hired by Abdul Razak Baginda also told the press conference on Thursday how after the murder, he had seen an SMS message to Razak purportedly from the deputy Prime Minister telling Razak "I am seeing the IGP at 11am today...matter will be solved...be cool." Americk said he was shocked that within 24 hours his client had engaged the services of another lawyer and made another statutory declaration swearing that the first one was untrue and that he had been forced to sign it.
"As I am familiar with the character of Mr Bala, having spent hours recording his statement, I am very sceptical that he signed the second statutory declaration of his own free will."
Americk said after the press conference at PKR's headquarters on Thursday, he left with Balasubramaniam for his office and noticed a number of calls to the private investigator's mobile went unanswered.
He said Balasubramaniam told him they were from the police, one of which was from ASP Tonny Lunggan, the investigating officer of the Altantuya murder case.
When Americk told him that it was all right to answer the call, he said Balasubramaniam then spoke to ASP Tonny and the call was very lively and jovial.
He said when Balasubramaniam left his office at 4.45pm, he thought the private eye was going to meet ASP Tonny after 6.30pm for some fish head curry.
"He was in very good spirits when he left. I was also of the impression that ASP Tonny wanted to congratulate him for what he had done," he said.
On why he did not advise his client about his personal safety, Americk retorted: "He was going to see the police. How much safer can you be?"
When reporters called Americk Friday morning about the second statutory declaration, Americk tried to reach his client but the latter could not be contacted, even up till Friday evening when the press conference was held.