From Extortion To Kidnapping: New Developments In Pastor Koh's Abduction Case
It has been more than 11 months since Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo disappeared in broad daylight on 13 February 2017
Koh, is believed to have been kidnapped, as closed circuit television (CCTV) security footage on his abduction shows 15 men in seven vehicles at the scene.
The incident happened between 10.31am and 10.32am on that fateful day, as Koh was kidnapped in just 40 seconds along Jalan SS4B/10 in Petaling Jaya, which is just 100 meters away from a police housing complex.
More than 330 days have gone by but 62-year-old Koh is still missing.
As his family and members of the public await news of his whereabouts, there have been new developments regarding his case in the past few days:
1. A man who was previously charged with extortion has been charged with kidnapping Koh
In March 2017, Lam Chang Nam was charged with extorting RM30,000 from Koh's son, Jonathan Koh Szu Hao, in exchange for the release of his father.
Lam, who was working as a part-time ride hailing service driver, was charged under Section 385 of the Penal Code for putting a person in fear of injury in order to commit extortion.
In a surprising turn of events, Lam was charged under Section 365 of the Penal Code for abduction and kidnapping on Monday, 15 January. He could be jailed up to seven years, or fined, or both if convicted.
2. Lam's lawyer was shocked to learn about the new charge
Lam is represented by lawyer Aaron Mark Pius, who told The Star that his client was being charged for kidnapping, adding that he has yet to receive any documents from the authorities and should be able to receive them on 26 February, the date set for mention of the case.
"Yesterday (15 January), Lam was charged with another much serious offence for kidnapping. My client pleaded not guilty to the charge.
"We did not see this coming. The position we are taking is that my client denies all the allegations against him," Pius was quoted as saying.
3. New leads have led the authorities to link Lam to Koh's abduction
IGP (Inspector-General of Police) Datuk Seri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said the police found new evidence that points Lam as a suspect in Koh's disappearance, along with seven other individuals who are still at large.
"The investigation into the disappearance of Pastor Raymond Koh is ongoing, and police have found new leads to connect Lam to the case," he said in a statement, as reported by New Straits Times (NST).
4. An ongoing inquiry involving Koh has been abruptly stopped
The Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), a body appointed by the government, led an inquiry over the disappearance of Koh and three other individuals - social activist Amri Che Mat, Pastor Joshua Hilmi and his wife, Ruth Sitepu.
However, the latest developments have led the inquiry on Koh's case to be suspended.
According to SUHAKAM chief Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, the commission received a letter from Mohamad Fuzi, who said that the inquiry has to be stopped as police had charged a suspect (Lam) in court over Koh's abduction.
Under Section 12 of the Human Rights Commission Act, investigations have to cease if the matter being investigated is brought before the courts.
5. Koh's family was not aware of the new kidnapping charge until the SUHAKAM inquiry held on Tuesday, 16 January
The Straits Times reported a family spokesman as saying that the Koh family was not informed that the police had charged someone of kidnapping.
"They only found out about it at the inquiry," the spokesman reportedly said.
6. Koh's wife, Susanna Liew, has expressed disappointment over the fact that the inquiry was halted
Following SUHAKAM's announcement that the inquiry would be halted, Liew said that she was shocked since her family had hoped "to find some answers to the many questions" they had about Koh's disappearance by coming to the commission.
"We are very disappointed that our hope to find answers and exercise our human rights for truth and justice is being denied.
"We hope that there will be justice, and although we still have hope in the system, I'm afraid that today this hope has been crushed," she reportedly said at a press conference.
7. Following the latest development, the Koh family lawyer has questioned what is the police's "game plan" as they had earlier cleared Lam of abduction
Gurdial Singh said that Selangor CID chief Senior Asst Comm Fadzil Ahmat, who heads the special task force that was set up to locate Koh, had previously stated that Lam was merely an opportunist who took advantage of the situation to get money from Koh's family.
"He (Fadzil) said police investigations showed in March last year that this person was not involved in the abduction.
"Now, as we approach the end of the inquiry, and we still have three crucial witnesses to testify, we have this person (Lam) being charged. What is the game plan of police?" he was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight.