This man should be disbarred. He has brought such disrepute to the legal profession. Wonder who he will implicate next – Dr. Mahathir? After all, a drowning man will clutch on straws. Could this be Pak Lah’s trump card? Maybe Pak Lah is not as stupid as he looks.
Who is VK Lingam?
by Soon Li Tsin
To many he is the senior lawyer in the videotape apparently brokering the appointment of ‘friendly judges’ into top positions in the judiciary but to others, he is a powerful and well-connected lawyer.
Who really is VK Lingam?
Malaysiakini reconstructed this portfolio based on information available in a company annual report where Lingam is a director and news reports posted on the Internet.
Kanagalingam Veluppillai, 56, began his career by serving several multinational and local companies in various senior management positions between 1973 and 1983.
While serving as human resources manager in UMW Holdings under the stewardship of Eric Chia (who later headed Perwaja Steel Holdings), he left to study law at the University of Buckingham, England, and graduated in 1985.
On his return, he re-joined UMW as its group legal advisor in 1985, but started his own practice four years later.
He was first caught in controversy when photographs surfaced on the Internet of him and then Chief Justice Eusoff Chin while they were on holiday in New Zealand in 1994 (right).
Eusoff denied that the holiday was paid for by Lingam – as had been alleged – and they had merely bumped into one another. It was revealed later that the two had been on same flight from Singapore to Auckland.
Following the discovery of the photos, the Bar Council sought to take disciplinary action against Lingam in 1996. He sued the Bar Council and won – then High Court judge Azmel Maamor decided against the Bar Council for failure to furnish names of the disciplinary board members.
There was another set of infamous photos – this time taken in Italy where Lingam were seen with well-connected tycoon Vincent Tan and then attorney-general Mohtar Abdullah, who was later appointed Federal Court judge, and their respective wives.
Notable court cases
1996 was to prove a busy year for Lingam, as lawyer or litigant in a number of notable court cases.
About the same time, Lingam represented Berjaya group tycoon Tan in a defamation suit against veteran journalist MGG Pillai which the High Court found in Tan’s favour and awarded RM10 million in damages – a record sum.
Pillai’s appeal to the Federal Court was heard by a three-member panel led by Eusoff, who upheld the finding but reduced the quantum of damages to RM2 million.
Still in 1996, Lingam filed three defamation suits for a total of RM190 million against lawyers, journalists and several others over an article in the International Commercial Litigation (ICL) magazine.
The article ‘Malaysian Justice on Trial’ published in the November issue of the British-based magazine had suggested that Lingam and Tan had connections with judges, namely in the controversial Ayer Molek case and Tan’s suit against Pillai.
It was only last year that High Court judge Hishamudin Yunus dismissed the suit filed against the magazine and said it was Lingam’s wrongful conduct in the Ayer Molek case that had led to the publication of the article.
Hishamudin said Lingam was guilty of “abusing and manipulating the process of court” in filing the action in the appellate and special powers division of the High Court instead of the commercial division.
Malaysian-based Asian Wall Street Journal correspondent, Raphael Pura – who was also sued by Lingam – had alleged that Lingam himself had penned part of High Court judge Mokhtar Sidin’s judgment on the Pillai case.
Defamation suits aside, the lawyer has provided legal services to Eric Chia when Perwaja Steel was saddled with RM6.9 billion in debts in 1996.
An audit report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers into the ailing company’s records was ordered by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim. The report disclosed that Lingam had been paid RM12 million for his services.
Lingam’s string of high-profile clients include former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has been sued by Anwar for defamation. The case has been struck out but Anwar’s lawyer had expressed intentions to appeal.
The spotlight is now back on Lingam – on Sept 18, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim released a grainy eight-minute video clip of the lawyer on the phone, apparently revealing his influence in brokering judicial appointments.
By inference, the conversation appeared to involve current Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim. Neither has openly denied the claims to date, although the latter is said to have contacted de facto law minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz with a denial.
Lingam is now on the board of directors in network marketing Cosway Corporation Bhd, a subsidiary of Berjaya Group.