A 50-year-old Singaporean man is seeking an explanation from the Republic’s authorities regarding his arrest by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) — and his subsequent extradition by the Malaysian Police — on 21 Mar 2015 over a charge made against him for a murder that took place in Penang Island.
Mohan Rajangam, in a recent interview with TOC, rehashed his traumatic experience of being left in Malaysia for four months, allegedly without any follow up from either the SPF or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He was forced to resort to buying his own flight ticket back to Singapore after his release from the custody of the Malaysian police, and was made to pay a fine for purportedly overstaying in Malaysia.
Mr Mohan’s harrowing ordeal began with him being “ambushed” by around 20 police officers who alighted a van in front of his then-workplace at Madras Street, upon which he had immediately produced his NRIC to one of the officers.
“They brought me to my workplace and went up to the third floor to check everything … They came down and cuffed me, [and] brought me to my car,” said Mr Mohan, noting that the police officers had done so without stating any grounds for his arrest, and without any warrant to search his residence in Hougang.
He added that while the Police did not find any illegal items in his home, at his workplace or in his car, his passport was seized by the police when they had raided his car.
Mr Mohan also said that he was taken to Cantonment Police Station shortly after his arrest, and was left there for two hours before being transferred to the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) to undergo a urine test.
He was then released by the CNB after results of the urine test proved to be negative, after which he was sent by an Investigating Officer (IO) to the Secret Societies Branch (SSB), one of eight branches under the Police Force’s Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) Specialised Crime Division.
“So I went there, [and] I explained to them everything, and they said they [have] got nothing to with me … They asked me to sit down [for] one hour. They took some statements … They said, ‘Okay, we’ve got no charge against you, you go down to the lock-up,'” said Mr Mohan.
Mr Mohan alleged that one of the two IOs was “very rude” to him during interrogation, and said that the IO had only “roughly briefed” him and asked him regarding his whereabouts and activities on the night the murder had taken place “without taking any statement in the laptop”.
“No person is judged as a criminal until proven guilty. The Police branded me and treated me like a criminal even before any form of evidence to prove that I was involved in a crime that took place in Penang,” said Mr Mohan.
He added that he was held by the Police without legal representation for 48 hours.
“I thought, [after] 48 hours [of detention], they were going to release me … They handcuffed my leg, they handcuffed my hand, brought me to court … Then one of the interpreters was reading saying that on 2nd of March 2015, I took a gun and shot one Indian guy — I can’t remember the name — at 9.20 p.m. in George Town,” said Mr Mohan.
Mr Mohan said that he had told both the interpreter and the presiding State Court judge that he was “having a function” at the nightclub where he was employed at the time on the day the murder took place, and that his passport records show that he “did not go to Malaysia” during that period of time.
When asked about the judge’s response to his testimony, Mr Mohan claimed that the judge had refused to listen to him, and told him to “talk to the Singapore police” regarding the matter, after which Mr Mohan was told that he would be released after 14 days if he was found innocent.
“I told the judge that I was in Singapore. There was a birthday function at my workplace. I had nothing to do with the murder case. I told him to screen my passport for all entries and exits this year. But the judge dismissed my reasons and gave consent for the Malaysian authorities to bring me out of the country for investigation,” he said, adding that he told the judge to write down his statement of defence.
Mr Mohan alleged that he was then taken to the Woodlands Checkpoint at about 6.45 p.m. the same day.
“There was a Malaysian car … They transferred [me] to the car, [and] they straight away brought me to one of the JB [Johor Bahru] police stations.
“Then at midnight, they transferred me to another car [heading] to Penang,” he said.
WATCH: Mr Mohan Rajangam speaks to TOC about his arrest in S’pore and his subsequent extradition to M’sia
The journey to the Penang police headquarters took around 10 to 11 hours, during which Mr Mohan suffered intense pain, as he was handcuffed with his hands behind his back.
“The left side of my body started becoming numb and I had difficulties breathing due to asthma,” he lamented, adding that the Malaysian police had silenced him when he voiced his discomfort.
Mr Mohan also alleged that he was “brought to different police stations in various places for interrogation” during the investigation period, and was made more difficult for him as the officers spoke to him in Malay.
“Almost everyone spoke to me in Malay. I can only speak and write in English and Tamil. I am unable to understand Malay. It was worse when almost all the officers spoke to me in Malay fast and instructed me to acknowledge documents by signing. It was scary because I cannot comprehend the prints,” he said.
When asked about how long it took before he was presented in court, Mr Mohan said that he was detained for a day in the lock-up in Penang.
“The next day — if I’m not mistaken, 24th [of Mar 2015] — they brought me to the Penang court, and [I was] remanded for seven days,” adding that he was remanded “with some other 16 of them [suspects]”.
Mr Mohan also alleged that he was placed in a dark room for the first seven days he was held in Penang.
“That means no light, no nothing. Very difficult for me. First time for me, you know, in the dark room … And then they will come investigate, go out and investigate … I told everything, [but they] did not listen to anything [I said],” he narrated, adding that the officers were also “shocked” as to why he was there.
“I told them, [the] Singapore court is the one who told that I took the gun and shot [the victim] … and they said, ‘We didn’t give any charge form to Singapore'”, said Mr Mohan.
When asked if he was charged in the Penang court, he said: “They didn’t read any charge in Penang.”
“There was no evidence against me, but the police did not want to release me,” he said, noting that Malaysia’s Ministry of Home Affairs interviewed him and wrote a report at the end of the fourth month he was in Penang, stating that he was not involved in the murder case as his passport revealed that he did not go to Penang for eight months.
When asked as to whether anyone from the Singapore consulate or embassy in Malaysia — situated in Johor Bahru and the capital city of Kuala Lumpur — had visited him throughout his remand, Mr Mohan said: “No… [The Singapore] Embassy did not visit. None of the Singapore people [from] any of the departments — [they] did not come and visit me for the four months [I was held in Malaysia].”
He also highlighted that other people who were remanded alongside him from other countries such as China, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom were visited by representatives from their respective embassies.
During his lock up in Malaysia, Mr Mohan had to pay RM100 (S$32.89) per minute of phone call to the attending wardens and other miscellaneous payments for essentials, as the conditions during his remand were unbearable to him. Money was wired to the wardens after making calls to his wife and the wardens would only provide the items only after the money is transferred.
He was then transferred from one police station to another after his first court appearance to “assist” in other cases which had no connection with him for another three months. Mr Mohan refers to this as a parade of sorts where he was kept with other Malaysian suspects and questioned for offences that had nothing to do with him.
“My cousin Viknesen assisted my wife by emailing to the [Ministry of] Foreign Affairs for advice and assistance” regarding his predicament “in detail”, according to Mr Mohan, to which a MFA officer replied that their representatives had made two calls.
The Singapore Consulate in Johor Bahru had, according to Mr Mohan, contacted a police officer at the North Johor Bahru headquarters in Skudai, while the High Commission in Kuala Lumpur had contacted the Malaysian IO in his case for information on his whereabouts.
“Thereafter there was no follow up from the Foreign Affairs for 4 months. They did not visit me in Penang, and neither did anyone contact me after my release,” he said.
After questioning why no one had visited him in remand in Penang, and after explaining to the MFA officer in a phone call everything that had taken place throughout his four-month ordeal, Mr Mohan was told that the officer would investigate the matter and call him back. However, Mr Mohan has yet to receive any follow-up from the MFA officer.
Police did not inform family of details regarding arrest and detention: Mr Mohan Rajangam
Mr Mohan also alleged that the Singapore police did not inform his family of his whereabouts and condition over 48 hours after his arrest.
“After 48 hours, my family was not told anything,” he said, adding that his family had to go to the Hougang Police Station — the nearest police station to their residence — to find out what had happened to him, only to be informed by a police officer regarding his extradition to Malaysia, and that he had been produced in a Malaysian state court with a Warrant of Arrest.
When asked as to whether SPF had given him any explanation behind sending him over to their Malaysian counterparts without investigating his claim that he was not present at the crime scene at the time of the murder, Mr Mohan replied that “nobody” had given him such an explanation.
According to Mr Mohan, the Malaysian Police had sought his assistance because he was acquainted with one of the suspects over a decade ago. Furthermore, he bears a resemblance to the key suspect of the murder charge.
By the time he was presented in the Penang court, however, the suspect had confessed to the crime. Mr Mohan lamented that if the SPF or MFA had been in contact with him at the time, he could have returned to Singapore at that instance.
“When [the] Penang police released me from the Bayan Baru lock-up, one of the officers [who] brought me just released me from there. That means I can go out. But they had forgotten to give [me] the passport.
“So they brought me to a police station where I was the first day I was there, then the IO came and passed me the passport. And I was asking the IO, ‘Where’s my IC?’ … They gave me the copy [of the IC]. Only then they returned [to] me the passport,” said Mr Mohan.
Mr Mohan also said that he called the IO who had investigated him during his arrest in Singapore after he returned to Singapore, as he only had his passport in possession and his NRIC was missing.
“I called the IO [and asked], ‘Where is my IC? I need to collect my IC’. And he said it’s with [the] Malaysia[n] side,” he said, adding that the Malaysian police released him without his NRIC.
Mr Mohan was then told to make a police report and to make a new NRIC.
“Why should I go and do when your department was the one who took the IC, and they should be responsible to return [it] back to me?” He questioned. “I don’t want to make a complaint and make another IC. It’s wrong.”
“Why should I pay for my identity when it was not lost but taken away from me by the Singapore Police?” He added.
Mr Mohan also recalled how he had to take a taxi to the airport himself the afternoon he was released, only to find that he was to be re-arrested — this time for “overstaying” in Malaysia on a social visit pass — and was made to pay a RM100 (S$32.89) fine.
He was also left with no option but to purchase a new ticket for a nighttime flight, which resulted in him reaching home at 11 p.m. the same day.
Health deteriorated greatly over the four months, employment terminated due to long absence: Mr Mohan Rajangam
He also spoke about how his health condition had deteriorated rapidly throughout his ordeal — which was certified by doctors who examined him in Penang — and having to seek medical treatment upon returning to Singapore.
“There was a development of a dangerous looking lump on both my sides which has become huge and painful during my 4 month investigation in Penang,” said Mr Mohan.
He added that he had suffered from a throat infection and a high fever with chills as a result of dehydration due to receiving inadequate liquids to replenish himself, with “only tap water in the lock up to depend on”.
“When I came back, I lost 20 kgs of weight,” lamented Mr Mohan, adding that he had experienced severe hair fall as a result of the stress he was put through. “My body was totally gone.”
He added that he had the lump on his body re-examined at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic upon his return, after which he was referred to the General Hospital for a CT scan and had the lump scheduled for removal in mid-Nov 2015 via surgery.
The lump was suppressing his kidney, and Mr Mohan was in fear of the lump being cancerous.
“The doctor at the polyclinic was shocked to see my condition,” he said.
Mr Mohan also said that his four-month-long absence has resulted in him losing his primary employment in a logistics company.
“They waited for my reply … They don’t know what happened,” said Mr Mohan, adding that his former employer thought that he was absent without “any reason”. Mr Mohan, however, was not allowed to make any calls during his detention, and was thus unable to inform his employer regarding his absence.
“Of course, everybody in Singapore trusted that I did the murder … I was arrested in my workplace … Every [member of the] public was watching. It’s a big embarrassment,” he added. “I have lost a day job. Who is going to replace my day job?”
Mr Mohan said, however, that his family knew that he was in Singapore on the day the murder had taken place. “I didn’t go to Penang,” he added.
He also stressed that his wife, Kasthuri, went to court and requested the charge sheet while he was held by the Malaysian police in Penang as “she wanted to hire a good lawyer”.
“However, she was told that there were no charges against me in the system for the year 2015. Therefore she could not write in,” added Mr Mohan.
He revealed that Ms Kasthuri had gone back to court and “paid a certain amount to request the charge sheet”, but the court had declined her request.
“The police did not screen my passport for all entries and exits from Singapore to Malaysia. The CNB and SSB could not find any criminal records on me after screening.
“Therefore, Singapore should not have handed me to the Malaysian authorities if I have no criminal records,” according to Mr Mohan, adding that his passport did not reveal that he was in Malaysia at the time the murder took place.
“There was no concrete evidence against me that required me to leave Singapore’s custody and be sent to another country,” he added. “In any event, all investigations could have been held in Singapore without handing me over.”
“Due to the poor government system, I was wrongly judged, sent away from my family, and homeland to be interrogated by another Government … There was no help or any form of assistance from my Government,” Mr Mohan lamented.
“They should investigate me first … If they can tell the date and time I did the murder, why didn’t they check the passport?” he charged.
Mr Mohan also claimed that he had made a request to the State Court for his charge sheet following his return to Singapore. He was advised to make an appeal via email. However, his appeal was rejected.
“What is happening? Why am I not given the same charge sheet which was read out to me in court on 23 March 2015?” He questioned.
Mr Mohan had chosen to reveal his story only recently, as he has finally settled down in his life, five years after the horrific experience.
TOC submitted several queries to various government agencies cited in Mr Mohan’s case — namely MFA, the State Courts and the Ministry of Home Affairs — on 17 Dec. However, we have not received any response from the aforementioned agencies as of press time.