On the day of the Annual General Meeting, 20th April 2018, Salil Innab, founder and CEO of Novasten Sdn Bhd, formerly known as Innab Trade Sdn Bhd, filed an ex-parte injunction against Setia Sky Residences, a service apartment complex in the Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz area of Kuala Lumpur.

The lawsuit complained, among other things, that Setia had harassed tenants and breached its agreement with its proprietors as well as the provisions of relevant law by requiring the plaintiff to immediately stop providing short-term rental tenancies to his clients through his company.

Another notable lawsuit filed by Innab; Innab Salil & Ors v Verve Suites Mont Kiara (Federal Court) [2020]10 CLJ 285 has resulted notorious in Malaysian law because it set the precedent that property management bodies can restrict or entirely prevent the provision of short-term rental tenancies – an outcome that is widely considered as detrimental to Malaysia’s tourism and property industry, not to mention in contradiction of several provisions in the Federal Constitution.

What differentiates the Verve case from the pending Setia case is that Setia has taken the law into their own hands by exercising unlawful practices to forcibly prohibit the short-term tenancies, without having passed any by-laws prohibiting such tenancies.

However, while the public outcome of the case is well known, what many do not know is the deadly circumstances that underlay this case for so long and eventually led to Innab having to flee Malaysia in the middle of the night in order to protect his life.

This is the account of the circumstances underlying Salil Innab & Anor. v Setia Sky Residences & Ors., and the vicious underbelly of corruption that has enveloped the Malaysian political and judicial class.

Shady connections to power

Innab filed his lawsuit against Setia in order to contend what he thought was a purely contractual and administrative law dispute. However, the several inconsistencies and inexplicable events that began to ensue immediately suggested this was not the case.

First, while Innab did not know this at the outset of his lawsuit, it subsequently became apparent that he was fighting not just against Setia, but also against higher powers. Due to increasing resistance against the lawsuit he filed, Innab conducted an investigation and found out that Setia had a link to former Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Apparently, Najib Razak has a vested interest in SP Setia, which in turn is the developer for Setia Sky Residences.

In addition to this, Razak has an interest in Ambank (M) Berhard. The significance of this will become apparent when further facts are related below.

Suspicious delays 

At the outset of filing, Innab expected that the case would proceed, if not quickly, at least relatively steadily. It did proceed in this manner as first, especially when the case was assigned to Judge Darryl S.C. Goon, who oversaw significant early progress in the lawsuit.

Innab’s counsel Dato’ Manpal unilaterally acted on substantial matters requiring Innab’s involvement, and even against Innab’s instructions, on several occasions. On one such occasion, Manpal unilaterally applied for and obtained a postponement of the final hearing date for permanent injunctive relief, against Innab’s objection.

Subsequently, for ostensibly ‘administrative reasons’, the case was reassigned to Judge Mohd Sofian Abd Razak and from this point, all progress slowed to a crawl and eventually stopped.

The lawsuit became characterized by multiple adjournments of varying lengths to such an extent that very little substantive hearing was done in the case. For a period of roughly two years, there was almost no progress in the lawsuit. In addition to this, Judge Abd Razak was also mysteriously assigned another of Innab’s High Court appeals against members of Verve Suites; Innab Trade Sdn Bhd & Anor Vs Nithianandan A/L Rajasingham & 3 Ors (No: WA-12ANCVC-268-11/2019) pending at the time. This case was also characterized by unnecessary delays and inexplicable adjournments.

Innab subsequently found out that Judge Abd Razak had links to a UMNO member who was also tied to former Prime Minister Najib Razak. On discovering the connection, Innab immediately instructed his attorney to request that the judge recuse himself, as such connections, in this case, may raise the likelihood of bias. The attorney failed to accede to this request and several subsequent requests.

In fact, Judge Abd Razak continued to hold onto the case even after he was promoted to the Court of Appeals and was no longer a member of the High Court.

Unethical conduct of counsel 

If Innab had any illusions about what he was up against, these were quickly dispelled by the exasperating and patently unethical conduct he experienced from his lawyer, Dato Manpal. Unknown to Innab at the time he hired this attorney, Manpal was connected to former PM Najib Razak. Manpal is a cousin and attorney to Pavitar Singh, an ex-partner of Innab who was introduced to Innab by Dato Manpal, who later defrauded him, and who was later found to be closely associated with Najib Razak.

Even worse, Manpal overtly tried to frustrate Innab’s case further, Innab had initially instructed Manpal to file a request to withdraw and with liberty to file afresh in an attempt to put an end to the delay being occasioned by Judge Abd Razak. However, Manpal failed to do this immediately.

Inexplicably, when the case had been reassigned to a new judge, Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali, Manpal then decided to request to withdraw with liberty to file afresh, later claiming not knowing about the reassignment to Judge Mohd Nazlan, despite that the letter clearly is addressing the new Judge.

Harassment and assassination attempts 

As if the judicial manipulation and sabotage carried out on behalf of the defendants was not enough, there were several attempts to harass Innab. Just days after filing for an injunction in April 2018, Innab was called in by the Dang Wangi Police and was arrested on malicious grounds.

The complaint alleged that Innab was guilty of criminal intimidation against one Nithianandan A/L Rajasingham during the General Meeting where he applied for the injunction. Rajasingham was, at the time, a defendant in a conspiracy and defamation lawsuit which Innab initiated. In addition, he was to be elected as a chairman of Setia Sky and Verve Suites although he had to step down after corruption investigations were opened against him by MACC.

Another incident involved a malicious attempt to target Innab’s corporate account in Ambank. While attempting to conduct an audit of said account, he discovered a catalog of forged documents, unknown transactions and cheques, falsified bank statements, and forged signatures of bank opening forms. This was indicative of the bank staff’s involvement in the conspiracy.

However, the attempts to discredit, harass, and even silence Innab did not stop there. On a different occasion, narcotics were planted inside Innab’s car. Prior to this discovery, Innab reported certain trespassers harassing him in his gated community, and officers from the Sentul district (a police department from another district, that has at several occasions unexplainedly targeted Innab) showed up.

Only, this time, they were hostile to Innab for no reason, and, instead of addressing the trespassers, demanded that Innab get into his company car and go with them to the police station to lodge a report. There are significant questions about how they knew which car was his since it was not parked in the driveway.

Innab however, while recording the incident on his iPhone, informed the officers that he had no road tax and could not drive to the station as a result. A week later, while attempting to have his car cleaned, Innab discovered what looked like narcotics in his car and upon further research, he found it to be crystal methamphetamine – in sufficient quantity to warrant a mandatory death penalty upon conviction.

Apart from this, Innab’s detractors have taken even more direct steps to eliminate him. In October 2020, Innab and his security personnel were invited to a meeting by one Bukit Aman officer and a lawyer called Farhan Read. Read was ostensibly there to help Innab with the challenges of the case and Innab was told that the lawyer wins 100% of his cases. He did not understand what this meant until Read left saying, “I am now leaving to meet my client; the former prime minister.”

Apparently, Read was representing former PM Najib Razak, and confirming this, Read sent a text message to Innab soon after the meeting, asking if there was any possibility that Innab could walk away from “everything”. He also recommended Innab “to get more bodyguards” because he might get shot while “sitting in a Mamak” as “one bodyguard may not be enough”.

Sure enough, a few days later, at around 3 am, Innab woke up to his dogs aggressively barking at someone outside. He asked his security personnel, who was stationed at his home 24/7 to prepare his firearm but instead, the guard admitted that the firearm was taken away from him the same day without explanation.

Innab immediately packed what evidence he could fit in a bag, discreetly made his way to the airport, and fled Malaysia. He later found out that his personal security guard was an 18-year ex-special force security personnel that was also associated with the former prime minister.

Several months later, and Innab is still recovering. His house, his office, and his Malaysian bank accounts have all been ransacked by various “friends”, “staff”, “partners”, and financial institutions.

Most important, however, is the need to set the record straight and get the true facts of the circumstances underlying these events into the public domain.

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