Police to investigate claims made by asylum seeker


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 29 Jan 2004

BY ANDREW SAGAYAM

KUALA LUMPUR: Police will investigate the allegations made by the asylum seeker Gulam Hassan Anwari in a statement given to the press that he was driven to take his life due to debts he was unjustly forced to pay. 

Gulam, a 50-year-old businessman, who claimed to be an Iranian but holding a Pakistani passport, died nine hours after he set himself ablaze outside UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) agency on Tuesday. 

Brickfields Deputy OCPD Supt Kuzi Minai said police were investigating the case and would first go through the claims and allegations made in the four-page handwritten statement. 

“For the time being, we will check the contents of the statement which he threw to reporters before torching himself. We will investigate the deceased's allegations that he was forced to pay RM300,000 to the two suppliers whom he accused of ill-treating and cheating him,” Supt Kuzi said.  

In the statement, Gulam alleged the two suppliers, whom he had business dealings with, demanded that he pay them RM300,000 after a cheque from a customer whom he had sold scarves to last year, bounced.  

Gulam said he was forced to sell more goods to clear the debt and claimed that he eventually managed to reduce it to RM110,000. He claimed the suppliers continued to harass him and kept insisting that he still owed them RM300,000. 

Frustrated by what he had gone through and disappointed that his application for refugee status was rejected by UNHCR, he contacted the press on Monday and informed them that he would be committing suicide “to show the world”.  

Yesterday, Supt Kuzi said the suppliers whom Gulam had dealings with had lodged a police report against him last year. 

“In their report, the suppliers alleged that Gulam owed them over RM300,000 and urged the police to help them recover the cash,” he said. 

He said police had opened up a sudden death report and the investigations papers would be forwarded to the magistrate for further action.  

Supt Kuzi also said the woman who accompanied Gulam to the UNHCR office was not aware of the foreigner's intention. Gulam picked up the woman from her home in Damansara Damai in a taxi at 10am but she was not told where they were heading. 

The woman in her late 20s and jobless has been verified to be a local. Her name is being withheld by police,  

“She went hysterical when she saw what Gulam did to himself,” he said, adding that the woman told police that she was puzzled when he stopped to buy petrol at a station near the Sungai Buloh flyover.  

Supt Kuzi said when she asked Gulam why he had bought the petrol, he said his car was out of petrol.  

He added that the woman befriended Gulam after first meeting him in Masjid India several months ago where he sold scarves and dates. 

The UNHCR expressed regret over the death of Gulam and is trying to help him fulfill his final wish to be buried in Malaysia, reports RENEE CHOONG. 

“His last wish has been conveyed to us, and as a humanitarian agency we will undertake this responsibility,'' said officer Jennifer Ashton. 

She said the UNHCR would also bear his medical costs at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital where he was placed under a life support system at the intensive care unit before he died. 

Ashton, who witnessed Tuesday's incident, said the staff was in shock. 

Meanwhile, city police chief Deputy Commissioner Datuk Dell Akhbar Khan said that they were facilitating a request from the Iranian Embassy here to send Gulam's remains back to Iran. This follows a request from Gulam's brother, who resides in the United States.  

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