Family questions officer’s integrity.
The family of Ivana Smit, who died at a Kuala Lumpur apartment in 2017, has appealed for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s help to remove her case’s investigating officer from a task force that reopened the probe into her death.
In a letter to the PM yesterday, the deceased’s mother Christina Carolina Gerarda Johanna Verstappen sought to remove assistant superintendent Faizal Abdullah from the task force.
The family’s lawyer, Sankara Nair, pointed out that the police officer was among four defendants targeted by their civil action over alleged negligence in probing the incident on Dec 7, 2017.
The other defendants are the inspector-general of police (IGP), the home minister, and the Malaysian government. The IGP and minister were not named in the legal action.
Sankara claimed that Faizal’s appointment to the task force is indefensible and runs contrary to Ismail Sabri’s previous assurance on transparency and fairness in the investigation.
The lawyer noted that Faizal, alongside the other defendants, had filed an application to strike out the family’s civil action, with the bid fixed for hearing on Aug 3.
“Indeed, the second defendant (Faizal) should not remain on the task force as this will not uphold transparency, independence and justice in conducting investigations, especially when he himself, from the first day when the late Smit’s body was found, had already concluded that the death was due to natural causes or suicide without any proper investigation.
“The personal integrity of the second defendant is questioned by our clients (the court has also ruled that this case is not a case of natural death or suicide). Our clients have also named him personally as the second defendant in the said suit.
“Therefore, there is a clear and obvious conflict of interest in the situation and the task force, therefore, cannot be considered independent. It is imperative that the second defendant be excluded from any involvement in the task force and the investigations altogether,” contended Sankara.
The lawyer also said that all actions and inactions from Nov 27, 2019, since the establishment of the task force have been “most disappointing and regretful”.
“Our clients and the family are still grieving and are in pain by the death of the late Smit. They have suffered extreme injustice.
“The defendants ought to have expressed a deep sense of sympathy and ought to have proceeded with the reinvestigation with haste and professionalism,” Sankara said.
The lawyer also sought Ismail Sabri’s help for the family to be provided with a list of names of all members of the task force, the latest status of the investigation for them to evaluate, scrutinise and review, as well as appropriate feedback on the probe from time to time.
On June 26, Netherlands news reported that Ismail Sabri had assured his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte that the probe into Smit’s death would be expedited.
On Dec 7, 2017, Smit’s body was discovered on the balcony of a sixth-floor unit of the CapSquare Residence in Kuala Lumpur, 14 floors below the 20th-floor condo unit of Alexander William Johnson and Lunara Almazkyzy. She was 18.
Later that month, the police classified the case as sudden death. The following year (2018), cryptocurrency trader Johnson and his wife Almazkyzy left Malaysia.
On March 8, 2019, the Kuala Lumpur Coroner’s Court ruled the model’s death as a misadventure.
However, in November 2019, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur overturned the coroner’s finding, ruling there was insufficient investigation on the possibility of death by homicide and on the possibility it may have been caused by “persons known or unknown” to the victim.
Following the High Court ruling, the police announced a new task force would be formed to reopen investigations into the case.
In November 2020, Verstappen, 57, filed the suit against the defendants in order to seek general, aggravated, and exemplary damages over negligence, gross negligence, misfeasance, and/or nonfeasance.
The family seeks a declaration that the defendants failed to carry out their duties as per the High Court ruling on Nov 22, 2019, which overturned the ruling of misadventure.
They are seeking a mandamus order for the IGP, home minister, and/or the government to issue a warrant of arrest and extradite Johnson and Almazkyzy to Malaysia for further questioning and possible prosecution.
Since leaving Malaysia in 2018, the couple has given interviews to international media, where they admitted to having sexual relations with Smit prior to the incident but denied being responsible for her death. – Malaysiakini