Disciplinary action against lawyer in Altantuya case on hold after counsel removes himself

Cecil Abraham-Americk

A lawyer for the Bar Council has removed himself from the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against corporate lawyer Tan Sri Cecil Abraham for allegedly preparing a statutory declaration (SD) for the late private investigator P. Balasubramaniam, who was not his client.

Sources told The Malaysian Insider said senior lawyer Lambert Rasaratnam was not comfortable to lead evidence and cross-examine Abraham because of a “latest development”, which was not specified.

A source familiar with the proceedings declined to go into detail what triggered Rasaratnam from appearing for the Bar Council, which is the complainant in the case.

“The proceeding is stuck as the council is looking for a replacement lawyer,” a source told The Malaysian Insider.

It is understood that because of the personality involved in this disciplinary hearing and the possibility of other senior lawyers stepping forward to be in involved one capacity or another in the hearing, lawyers with the necessary seniority and standing have been slow to offer their help.

Legal circles said it would be a shame if this disciplinary hearing comes unstuck because senior lawyers are uneasy over a face-off with a prominent member of the Bar.

Disciplinary proceedings against Abraham started in March and the next hearing is scheduled later this month with Balasubramaniam’s lawyer, Americk Singh Sidhu, slated to take the stand.

Abraham is being investigated by a three-man Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board (ASDB) committee for professional misconduct.

The contentious sworn statement was to counter Balasubramaniam’s first sworn statement, which had incriminated Datuk Seri Najib Razak and several other personalities in relation to the 2006 murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The ASDB decided to hold the proceedings after finding there was a prima facie case against the lawyer for professional misconduct.

The committee, comprising two lawyers and a layman, is looking into alleged misconduct under Section 94 of the Legal Profession Act (LPA) 1976 for “conduct or omission to act by a lawyer in a professional capacity which amounts to grave impropriety”.

“This misconduct is in relation to Abraham, who is alleged to have drafted the SD for Balasubramaniam, when the late private investigator was not his client.

“At all material times, Americk was on record as the counsel for Balasubramaniam,” a source said.