Zam Zam boss and friend jailed for conspiring to slash rival restaurant's supervisor

The Zam Zam and Victory restaurants along North Bridge Road. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)
The Zam Zam and Victory restaurants along North Bridge Road. (PHOTO: Google Street View screengrab)

SINGAPORE — The former boss of the popular Zam Zam restaurant and his friend were jailed for conspiring to assault a rival restaurant’s supervisor on Monday (11 May).

Zackeer Abbass Khan, 49, was jailed six years and given six strokes of the cane, while his long-time friend Anwer Ambiya Kadir Maideen, 50, was jailed five-and-a-half years.

Zackeer’s lawyer Sarbrinder Singh said that his client would be filing an appeal.

In passing the sentence, District Judge Mathew Joseph said, “This case is a salutary and sad reminder that one should not allow the red mist of bitterness and anger to cloud one’s better judgment.”

He noted that Zackeer had been a successful businessman in Singapore as seen by the success of Zam Zam restaurant.

“You should have known better, when anger and bitterness take centre stage the resulting consequences can be severe for both victim and perpetrators involved... there can be no place in our society for gratuitous violence arising out of mere business rivalry,” the judge told Zackeer.

Both Zackeer and Anwer had been involved in a dispute with the neighbouring Victory restaurant that culminated in the latter’s supervisor, Liakath Ali Mohamed Ibrahim, being slashed in the face by a secret society member hired by Anwer.

The attack left Ali with a permanent scar on his right upper lip.

Zackeer and Anwer were both found guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to cause grievous hurt to Liakath with a weapon. Zackeer was also convicted of one count of criminal intimidation. Anwer, a senior member of the Sio Ang Koon gang, also pleaded guilty on Monday to being a member of a secret society.

Lawyers’ pleas

Addressing the court via a video link, Deputy Public Prosecutor Claire Poh sought six years’ jail and six strokes of the cane for Zackeer and five years and seven months’ jail for Anwer.

Mitigating for Zackeer, Singh argued that his client was not a mastermind as he would have been involved in every stage of the process. However, Zackeer did not know what knife was used, or provided any information on Ali, he said.

DJ Mathew disagreed with Singh’s assessment, stating that there was “no standard formula for how a mastermind should work or what acts (Zackeer) should carry out to come within label of mastermind”.

“It is quite clear that without Zackeer approaching Anwer, this whole transaction leading to the attack would not have taken place. It is quite clear that the mastermind is not less culpable simply because he did not get involved or in this case did not participate in actual attack,” said the judge.

Lawyer Peter Keith Fernando said on behalf of Anwer that his client had been an inactive gang member for a “substantial period of time”, and that the offence was not related to gang violence. Anwer had joined Sio Ang Koon, part of the “24” group, in 1990 and was ranked as a “fighter”.

Fernando sought four years’ jail for the assault charge and two months jail’ for the secret society charge.

“(Anwer) is now a family man with a child to look after and has a business to run. Four years’ jail by itself is a devastating sentence on him and his young family. (Anwer) is the sole breadwinner with a seven-year-old adopted son,” said the lawyer.

The lawyer added that Anwer’s current business – an Indian food stall – was suffering due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Regarding the offence, Fernando said that Anwer had initially refused to get involved but had contacted another man to carry out the attack after Zackeer insisted on it.

Addressing the court himself, Anwer said that he was separated from his wife due to the court case and had lost custody of his son. He had also lost his job as a safety officer and his life savings.

Anwer also blamed Zackeer, his friend of 20 years, for using him as a “pawn” and a “shield to get his own malicious deeds done”. He said that he was “very remorseful for his actions” and was also supporting an 87-year-old mother who has cancer.

Rivalry with Victory Restaurant

Anwer had offered $2,000 to fellow Sio Ang Koon member, Joshua Navindran Surainthiran, carry out the attack on the night of 26 August 2015. The incident took place at a bridge between Rochor Canal and Sungei Road.

For his role, Joshua pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years’ jail and six strokes of the cane.

Four others who were involved, Joshua’s elder brother, Joel Girithiran Surainthiran, Ramge Visvamnathan, as well as Zam Zam employees Koleth Abdul Navas and Koleth Abdul Nasir, have all been dealt with by the court.

Zackeer and Anwer were convicted on 6 March. At the time, District Judge (DJ) Mathew Joseph noted that this case was all about the intense competition between the two eateries.

“Business rivalry is a common occurrence. This is part of everyday commerce and has to be taken into stride. In the case of Victory and Zam Zam restaurant, both are household names in Singapore and, at the same time, their rivalry has gone on for almost 100 years.”

“This is not surprising as murtabak is a very popular and tasty food item (that) is eaten at all time, day and night, in Singapore,” said the judge.

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Zam Zam Restaurant head and friend found guilty of conspiracy to slash Victory Restaurant rival