Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Angry forwarding agents call MACC ‘murderers’

April 06, 2011

Over 100 forwarding agents gathered in front of the Customs department’s import/export division upon hearing of Ahmad Sarbani’s death. — Pic by Shannon Teoh
PORT KLANG, April 6 — An innocuous negotiation at the Customs office here over the use of a new import form system turned ugly after news of Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed’s death leaked out to forwarding agents who had come to get their forms cleared.

Calling the assistant director in the Customs Department’s import/export division “their favourite officer,” over 100 agents gathered outside the gates of the premises where Ahmad Sarbani used to work.

They hung posters on the gates with slogans such as “Suruhanjaya Pembunuh Rakyat Malaysia” as they expressed their anger both at the Customs Department and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“He was the cleanest and most helpful officer. The MACC was tipped-off by other officers who were jealous of his good relationship with us,” said A. Kumaran.

Another agent who refused to be named said that Ahmad Sarbani, who fell to his death from the third floor of the MACC building in Cheras this morning, could be counted on to understand their problems.

“Every day that our forms are not cleared, we get charged for storage of the containers. He understands when we need to close our shipments,” he said.

The gates of the Customs department were plastered with angry messages condemning the MACC for the death of “their favourite officer”. — Pic by Shannon Teoh
The 56-year-old officer had returned to the MACC office today despite already giving his statement in relation to an investigation into a Customs syndicate worth billions in unpaid taxes.

MACC investigations director Datuk Mustafar Ali said the Customs officer’s body was found sprawled on the first floor at 10.15am.

The death comes even as a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) is being conducted into the anti-graft body’s operating procedures following the death of former DAP aide Teoh Beng Hock, who also fell to his death from an MACC building.

Teoh was found dead on July 16, 2009 on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam, Shah Alam, where the Selangor MACC office was then located.

Last week’s nationwide Customs dragnet swept 84 forwarding agents, a holding company and its 24 subsidiaries, and also led to the raid of 25 Customs premises.

Airfreight Forwarders Association of Malaysia (AFAM) chairman Walter Culas, who had been negotiating over the delay in processing the K1 forms, told The Malaysian Insider that the agents had become “emotional because they have been frustrated that their forms have been held up.”

“They like this officer but the main issue is the forms,” he said.

Customs introduced a new system last week where forwarding agents are no longer allowed to choose which officer to file their forms with

Impossible for Sarbani to commit suicide, say friends

April 06, 2011

Shocked and grief-stricken colleagues gathered outside the mortuary at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM). — Pic by Jack Ooi
KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 — Deep in the basement carpark of Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM), shocked relatives and friends grieved silently as the body of Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed lay in the mortuary awaiting an autopsy.

They had come to one conclusion upon hearing of his death plunge earlier — that it was impossible for the 56-year-old Customs assistant director to commit suicide over investigations into over a billion ringgit in unpaid taxes across five ports in the country.

In Customs Department uniforms or clad with headscarves, men and women lined the hallway leading to the mortuary, murmuring prayers and talking in hushed tones about the man who was found sprawled on the first floor after falling from the third floor of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) building on Jalan Cochrane this morning.

Some were unable to control their grief, with tears seen trickling down their faces.

Sarbani’s family was protective of his wife and five children who were escorted to the mortuary waiting room with their faces covered to avoid photographers from capturing their images. His siblings refused to give any comments to reporters crowding the mortuary.

His childhood friend, Ridzuan Mohamad, told The Malaysian Insider of his disbelief when he received the news of Sarbani’s death today.

“I was close to him and he was very humble. I think the charge against him by MACC is nonsense. If it is true then show the proof. The way they interrogated him was not fair.

“He was just a scapegoat for someone else,” said the 46-year-old former reporter.

Ridzuan also said that it was illogical for him to commit suicide because he had always maintained his innocence.

“Last night he called and told me that he was being investigated by MACC. He told me that he was not scared as he has not done anything wrong.

“He also told me that he was going to send a document tomorrow (today). That was it, to send a document,” he added.

Another close friend, Ashaari Isa, added that Sarbani was very pious and that a man of God would not commit suicide.

“That is what MACC has to say but for those that knew him personally then it was impossible (that he committed suicide).

“His personality and conduct was that of a very religious person,” said the 57-year-old businessman.

Ahmad Sarbani’s widow (in black) is surrounded by family and friends in the mortuary waiting room. — Pic by Jack Ooi
He also dared MACC to explain why the senior Customs officer would commit suicide and requested for the closed-circuit-television footage (CCTV) to be made public.

Ashaari, who drove from Sarbani’s village in Perak, angrily denied that suicide was the cause of death.

“Men from our village don’t kill themselves but we kill others,” he said in an emotional outburst.

MACC investigations director Datuk Mustafar Ali earlier told reporters that Sarbani had returned to the MACC building at 8.26am today without an appointment and had requested to meet with the investigation officer.

Sarbani had already given his statement to MACC and was released from custody at 12.30pm on Saturday.

He had been remanded on March 29 following an MACC-led swoop on Customs staff, resulting in the arrests of 62 officers.

“The deceased had asked to meet with the investigation officer but did not say why,” Mustafar said.

The chief investigator said an officer then accompanied the Customs officer to a room in the office before leaving to collect the case file but found him missing when he returned.

Sarbani’s body was later found on the badminton court on the first floor.

Pandamaran assemblyman Ronnie Liu arrived later and was seen consoling the dead man’s relatives.

He told reporters that DAP has offered to represent the family but has yet to receive an answer.

Hospital authorities said the autopsy will be conducted at 9pm tonight. Police have yet to say when the body will be released for burial by the family.

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