Court frees ex-RMAF man, trader over stolen jet engines

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PUTRAJAYA: A former air force man and a businessman were freed on Thursday, after having faced several court dates for six years on charges stemming from the loss of two fighter jet engines.

Sessions Court judge Aslam Zainuddin ruled the prosecution failed to establish the charges against ex-Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) sergeant N. Tharmendran and businessman K. Rajandran Prasad. They allegedly stole the engines and disposed them.

“The court found the prosecution failed to prove all charges against them,” said Judge Aslam in acquitting and discharging them.

He stressed the court heard all witnesses’ testimonies, went through the exhibits, and submissions from the prosecution and defence.

Family members of the duo were seen shedding tears upon hearing the decision by the court.

Tharmendran was charged under Section 380 read with Section 109 of the Penal Code on January 6, 2009 for abetting the theft of two J85-21 engines of an F5 jet.

On the same day, Rajandran was also charged with intentionally disposing the two engines, under Section 414.

Tharmendran and Rajandran were also slapped with a total of nine other charges under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFA) for money laundering totalling RM936,639.

Tharmendran was said to have used the money he obtained, through unlawful activities, to be credited into his personal bank account.

Rajandran was said to have used money, obtained through unlawful activities, to fund the expenses of an apartment in Bangsar, pay a company, purchase shares and deposit in a personal account.

Fifty four prosecution witnesses took the witness stand to give evidence during the trial.

The duo were represented by Rajpal Singh, Gobind Singh and Haijan Omar.

Deputy public prosecutors Muhd Ilmami Ahmad and Asmah Musa appeared for the prosecution.

Previous reports said one of the witnesses, Mohamad Shukri Mohd Yusof, admitted that he stole the J85-21 engines from the air force base in Sungai Besi.

He admitted that he stole the engines with Fauzi, another officer. Both reportedly wore uniforms on the day they committed the offence. Apparently, they wanted to avoid suspicion when they took the engines out from the base.

Shukri was not prosecuted.

The J85-21 engines, used on F5 fighter jets, were reported stolen on 20 December 2007 and 1 January 2008 at two RMAF facilities. They were sent to a premise in Subang Jaya.

It was reported the engines were sold on the black market to a South American company.

The government bought the engines back in 1972 at RM303,570.

Then Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail was reported saying in February 2010 that the air force jet engines were found in Uruguay.

Malaysia sought help from the Uruguayan Government, under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, to get the jet engines back.