Tue, Jan 22, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Judicial video filmed 'out of boredom'

PRICE OF BAD MANNERS A man was 'fed up' with a lawyer 'always on the phone' as he taped a conversation that has brought Malaysia's judicial system into question

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

A businessman testified yesterday that boredom forced him to secretly videotape a lawyer allegedly brokering the appointment of top judges in a scandal that has severely damaged Malaysia's judiciary.

In his first public statement on the scandal, Loh Gwo Burne, 33, told a government inquiry that he recorded the video in December 2001 at lawyer V. K. Lingam's house, where he had gone with his father to discuss their legal affairs.

In the clip, Lingam identifies the person on the other end of the phone line as Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, who was Malaysia's No. 3 judge at the time. He is heard discussing plans to elevate Ahmad Fairuz to become chief justice with the help of a tycoon and a politician. Ahmad Fairuz went on to become Malaysia's top judge in 2003 and retired last year.

Loh said he was fiddling with his camera, trying to take a picture of a vase, when he realized it was set to record video rather than still images. He said he continued recording Lingam when he began talking to someone on his phone.

"I was kind of bored and frankly I was fed up with him always on the phone. We were supposed to discuss our legal matters but he was constantly attending to other matters, talking on the phone," Loh said.

Even before the opposition made the video public late last year, Malaysia's judiciary had been accused of promoting unusually cozy friendships with politicians and businessmen. Lawyers say the video raises questions about whether high-level judicial corruption has tainted key court verdicts stretching back more than a decade.

Lingam was not aware he was being recorded, Loh said. Lingam was brought into the courtroom for 20 seconds for Loh to formally identify him as the man in the video.

Loh said he downloaded the video to his computer and made a CD copy. Subsequently, he met another lawyer, Manjit Singh, who used to work for Lingam. Manjit has since died.

Loh said he and Manjit were complaining to each other about Lingam, who apparently had not paid Manjit for his work.

"Manjit said, `This guy, always politics, politics, politics.' I said, `Maybe you should check this thing out?' So I gave him a copy [of the video]," he said.

Loh said he made several backup copies on DVD and his laptop computers, some of which he took to China where he has since started working as a consultant, but that he didn't know how the opposition got hold of the recording.

In the video, Lingam is heard telling the person whom he identifies as Ahmad Fairuz that he has extremely close ties with Eusoff Chin -- the chief justice of Malaysia between 1994 and 2000 -- and that he had cooperated with Eusoff to ensure certain people became judges. He hinted that Eusoff had helped him win cases.

The inquiry has already heard that Lingam took a family vacation in 1994 with Eusoff, who has denied any wrongdoing.

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