Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BMF Scandal Part 4 : The LORRAIN ESME OSMAN Story

‘They were afraid someone would do me in’- Lorrain



Tell us a bit about prison life.
I had lawyers but I had a lot to do with the affidavits.
It has a lot to do with my character not to allow circumstances to break me down; also the feeling that they can’t do anything to me that I’d be afraid of. I lived through the Japanese occupation and had a gun put to my head by a Japanese soldier when I was a young boy. And I was absolutely determined that I was not going to be broken down by anyone.
As regards the run-of-the-mill prisoners, I never had any problems. Usually under such conditions, you have a system in each block, where cleaners have some privileges and the head cleaner is the most important and intelligent of the lot and they had always made it a point to be friendly to me. On one occasion, I went to buy an item and it was the last one and another chap behind me said "let me have that" and I said no, he muttered something threatening me. I complained to the head cleaner, and the next morning, he came and apologised. So, I was not bullied at all.

Were you a privileged prisoner?
I was not a privileged prisoner. In Stanley Prison in Hongkong I was isolated and throughout my detention, I had a whole block to myself because they were worried someone would do me in! My first day in court, they put me in a flak jacket for fear that someone would try to bump me off!
Even in the UK, they tried to break me down by classifying me as a Category A prisoner -- considered to be a threat to the safety of the public, the police, or the state if I should escape. And for a while they put me in a special wing with suspected terrorists! 

Were you ever worried about your safety?The only worry I had was that there may have been something going on for which I was unaware of, but those involved had reason to believe that I was aware and would want to silence me. The ICAC thought there was a potential risk to my safety. Even the investigating officer taking me to court said, "if something happens, do exactly as I say!"

Why have you not returned to Malaysia?I would be bored to death! I often wonder what I would do if I return, even for a holiday. I have friends who want to see me, buy me dinner. If they want to see me, they can come to London! Also, I think going back would be an anti-climax!
I don’t think the politicians would want me back anyway. They’d think that I would be a nuisance to them. Not that I hanker to go back. I have no such desire.

Speaking of friends, have you ever been in contact with (former finance minister) Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah?
I am not in touch with Razaleigh, but by acknowledging me as a friend he will be tarred by the same brush that was used to paint me. Unlike (former Selangor mentri besar Datuk) Harun Idris, who was not afraid to meet anyone.
When the Hongkong government came to Malaysia to take evidence, Razaleigh was called to give evidence, and he said he did not know me very well; and everyone who knew me said this is "bloody rubbish!"

So, any regrets? Anything you would have done differently if given the chance?I got out of the Bank Buruh deal after the BMF problems and Bank Buruh would have been a nice little bank. It should have been left to prosper, it would have made a good business for poor Malaysians.

What do you do these days?I was trained to be idle! Even when I was in Cambridge, you are on vacation six-and-a-half months a year. I read a lot. Everyone thought I could write a great novel about my experience, but if I do, it could get a lot of people riled up! But if I ever got around to writing a book, it should sell because the underlying theme is that China becomes the greatest superpower in the world, which I believe is quite likely, seeing the subtle expansion of their influence. They are buying up the African countries and positioning themselves by vetoing resolutions against Zimbabwe. It’s not that they love Mugabe. They think Mugabe is s***, but it is just to exert their position.
If America had done what China is doing, it would have more friends.

So, Mahathir is far-sighted, as he aggravated the Americans and courted the Chinese?Don’t forget Tun Abdul Razak engaged the Chinese first. These so-called communist ideologies are for purely practical reasons, as it is the easiest way to control the whole of China so effectively. They allow you to do anything in China today, as long as you don’t interfere with the government.
How has the family been coping? Your wife Monica, a barrister, stood by you all the way.
My daughter was aware of what happened to me. She was 12 then. She’s in her 30s now and works in PR for the computer gaming industry. We don’t discuss this but as a loyal child she believes in my innocence. We have moved on, but talking about it will only bring back the heartache of that period. But if anyone wants to talk about it I will talk.

What about a memoir?People have been asking me to "write a book, write a book". If I do write a book, it would not be factual, as I would not be able to say the things I want to say. So I will write a fictional piece than I can say everything! (laughs)

What lessons can we learn from the BMF episode? Why is it important for us not to forget?Well, it is perhaps one chapter in the country’s history, but is it important? I don’t know. You will get yourself into an argument with people if you paint a picture that is sympathetic towards me. The others will say "no, no, he was a bloody rogue and he deserved what he got. He did it himself".
One thought might be useful: always maintain several layers of supervision. Many of today’s
banking problems have been allowed to happen because of this lack of effective supervision or oversight.

How can the loss of RM2.5 billion be on the head of one man? Surely, others knew. How can the Treasury not know?Even if the Treasury can say that, the whole main board cannot say that. As a commercial bank, we were autonomous of what we did, and what a subsidiary does, the parent company knew all about it. What you can say is even if they were not obliged to do so, certainly, there should have been much greater interest to know what was going on. I don’t think that it will be profitable to vindicate myself at this late stage. You can call me thick skin but I don’t worry about what people say about me. Life goes on.

How do we ensure this does not happen again?I presume even after BMF fell, there were also other big losses. What lessons can we learn to improve the system, if there is no will to do so?
If you have the will, then almost naturally ensure things don’t go wrong. I feel that had it not been for the collapse of the Hongkong market, and to this day I don’t know the truth of the matter, but the murder of Jalil. When they were investigating Jalil’s murder they wanted to talk to BMF directors, the other two were too scared to talk, so I went to Hongkong.
They asked me if I had any thoughts as to why Jalil was murdered. I said more than possible that there is someone wishing to embarrass the Malaysian government. A Russian diplomat was caught spying and sent home, that could be one. Or it could be various people with various reasons. I think it is possible that Jalil was being blackmailed and Mak Fook Than wanted more. He could have been trying to frighten Jalil but overdid it. Rumours that Jalil was about to uncover some big conspiracy … there was nothing of that sort. Jalil did us the directors more harm from being killed. Jalil knew what we were doing and he was supporting what we were doing as any banker would want to ensure that your loans are secured and you recover your loans. He was not about to blow any whistle!

On links to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern?It is claimed in websites that I was involved in bribing the Irish prime minister. Absolute rubbish! I don’t even know the man. I was negotiating for some friends of mine to acquire some property. Eventually, my people withdrew from the deal. Sometime later, the owners did a deal with the Irish Government and it was a good deal, much better than what we negotiated for. Immediately, there were rumours of some backhanded manoeuvrings. But the rumours were started by political rivals. That deal was introduced by an Irish journalist whom I think is a supporter of the opposition party.
There was a Commission of Inquiry which cleared the prime minister.
Come on, they said it was a heritage property and all that and I was not aware of this.
This I find insulting. I have been in the property business and to imply that I would do a deal without knowing my facts!

Lorrain’s long legal tussle
1985Dec 6: Lorrain Osman arrested at his London home on provisional extradition warrantDec 7: Remanded in custody of British police
1986Jan 20: Arrest warrant issued in HongkongJan 24: Home Office issues authority to magistrates to proceed with extradition case under the   Fugitive Offenders ActApril 25: Further warrant issued in HongkongMay 13: Second authority to proceed issuedMay 27: Committal proceedings begin
1987June 1: Lorrain committed for surrender to HongkongJune 9: Application for writ of habeas corpusJune 30: Complaint to European Commission of Human Rights
1988March 30: Application for writ of habeas corpus dismissedApril 29: Refused leave to appeal to House of LordsMay 13: Direct petition to House of Lords; second habeas corpus application madeJuly 14: Petition to Lords rejectedOct 21: Second hearing of habeas corpusDec 21: Second application dismissed
1989Feb 14: Refused leave to appeal to House of LordsFeb 24: Direct petition to House of LordsMarch 13: Complaint to European Court declared inadmissible under European Convention on Human RightsMay 4: Original arrest warrant quashed in HongkongJune 6: Leave to appeal for third habeas corpus granted by High CourtJuly 26: Bail application refused by Divisional CourtSept 26: Application for judicial review deferred to start of habeas corpusOct 4: Judicial review proceedings beginOct 26: Court adjourned for judgement on proceedingsNov 17: Application for habeas corpus and judicial review dismissedDec 5: Leave to appeal to House of Lords refusedDec 15: Further petition lodged to appeal to House of Lords direct
1990Feb 1: Outstanding petitions for leave to appeal to House of Lords refusedFeb 2: Fourth habeas corpus appeal lodgedDec 12: Fourth habeas corpus and judicial review was heard and dismissed.
1990-1992Filed two other habeas corpus applications
1993Following a bargain, pleaded guilty to financial negligence, served two months and released.

source : The Sun - http://www.sun2surf.com/article.cfm?id=24497

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