Part-time Uber driver charged with demanding RM30,000 from pastor’s family

By Ida Lim
Lam (centre) pleaded not guilty to the alleged offence of extorting RM30,000 from Jonathan Koh for the release of abducted Pastor Raymond Koh. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PETALING JAYA, March 15 — A seemingly opportunistic bid to extort RM30,000 from abducted Pastor Raymond Koh's family has landed a man in court here.

Lam Chang Nam, a 31-year-old part-time Uber driver, was accused of demanding the sum from Koh's son, Jonathan, at Paradigm Mall at 9.46pm on March 6 in order to secure the pastor's release.

He pleaded not guilty today to a charge under Section 385 of the Penal Code that was read out at the Petaling Jaya Magistrates' Court.

If convicted under Section 385 that covers the offence of putting others in fear of injury in order to commit extortion, he will face a maximum of seven years' jail, a fine, whipping or any two of these punishments.

Magistrate Mohd Azali Ibrahim denied Lam bail and fixed April 26 for mention.

Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Nurul Ilyani Mohd Tamam asked that Lam be denied bail as the case was of public interest.

She also said bail should be refused to "avoid the victim from being disturbed".

Lam's lawyer Datin Raj Preet Kaur had asked the judge to grant bail to Lam, whom she said has no reason to flee and noted that the court could keep his passport if he had one.

She pointed out that Lam's mother who is a clerk was present to post bail if granted.

Koh's family has offered a reward of up to RM100,000 for information that can lead to his safe return. — File pic

"The accused is an only child. His mother is a single mother," she said, later adding: "There's nobody else for her. He is the only child".

In asking for bail, the defence lawyer also said Lam was accused of committing an extortion offence, instead of a kidnapping offence.

Selangor police reportedly arrested Lam at 3.30am on March 9 after he allegedly contacted Koh's family to demand a sum of money for the latter's release.

However, Selangor Criminal Investigation Department director SAC Fadzil Ahmat said yesterday that the man detained with the cooperation of Koh's family was not connected to the abduction.

“Investigations revealed that the suspect had nothing to do with the case and only tried to take advantage by extorting the victim’s family," he was quoted saying yesterday.

On February 13, a group of masked men abducted Koh on a public road in Petaling Jaya in broad daylight. No ransom demand has been made since then over the abduction that reportedly happened within a minute.

The Selangor police has formed a special task force to find Koh, while his family has offered a reward of up to RM100,000 for information that can lead to his safe return.

Koh's case is currently being probed under Section 365 of the Penal Code for kidnapping or abduction with the intent to secretly and wrongfully confine a person. This offence is punishable with a maximum seven-year jail term and a fine.