PETALING JAYA:┬áThe family of Customs assistant director Ahmad Sarbaini Mohamed yesterday rejected the coroner’s court’s verdict that his death was accidental.

Instead, they called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up to probe into his death.

Lawyer N. Surendran, who represented the family during a press conference in Merchant Square here, said the family could not accept the verdict as the coroner’s court had not taken into consideration several important points in making its ruling.
He said among the reasons were the facts that CCTV recordings at the city Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Jalan Cochrane were tampered with and the MACC officer had become aggressive when Sarbaini went there to allegedly change his statement.

“A police expert had testified that CCTV recordings at the time when Sarbaini was inside the building and at the time of his death, were tampered with.

“This clearly raises suspicion, but the court did not take this into consideration before ruling that his death was accidental.
“During the proceedings, it was also found that an MACC officer had turned aggressive when Sarbaini went there that day to change his statement.

“He took Sarbaini’s mobile phone and put him in a room against his will. But, the court did not look into this,” he said.

He said the court’s inquest was also tainted with attempts to defame Sarbaini, who is no longer alive to defend himself, with bribery allegations. “The proceedings had also deviated from getting to the truth to helping MACC to ‘get off the hook’,” he told reporters during the press conference, which was also attended by Sarbaini’s mother Aishah Abdul Raof, 74, his siblings and other family members.
Sarbaini’s brother-in-law Makhtar Mansor, 53, said their family just wanted to know what had really happened during the incident, which ended with the victim found sprawled at the building’s badminton court on April 6.

“I followed the proceedings since day one, with the initial perception that there might be the possibility that my brother-in-law had committed suicide.

“But, after sitting in court and following the proceedings, I believe that there might be a cover-up into what had really transpired.

“I am talking from my experience as a former senior deputy public prosecutor and magistrate.

“The court, in its ruling, had also failed to mention the fact that Sarbaini made his initial statement to the MACC under duress.

“During the proceedings, it was found that Sarbaini had confessed to taking bribes as he did not want to spend another day in lock-up, which he described as ‘hell on earth’. But, this was not mentioned in the ruling,” he said.

Sarbaini was found dead on the badminton court located at the first floor of the MACC office in Jalan Cochrane on April 6. He was among 62 Customs officers detained by MACC in a graft probe, involving losses of up to RM2.2 billion in under-declared taxes. He was arrested on April 1 and released on bail the next day. On April 6, Sarbaini returned to the MACC office to meet his case officer.

The inquest, which started last July 4, was heard before Coroner Aizatul Akmal Maharani. On Sept 26, Aizatul delivered his verdict, ruling out murder, foul play or suicide.

By Hariz Mohd

16 October 2011