Firdaus Ramlan wishes he could turn back time. Now, he’s helping to prevent others from making the same mistake.
Firdaus Ramlan, who was a magistrate in Kelantan, found himself on the wrong side of the law when his corruption was exposed more than a decade ago.
In an interview with Malaysiakini, the now 39-year-old Universiti Teknologi Mara graduate spoke about how his life went downhill in the hope that it would serve as a lesson to others.
Firdaus became embroiled in graft when serving in the Gua Musang Magistrate’s Court. Prior to this, he had worked as a legal adviser for the Klang Municipal City Council and senior registrar at the Kota Bharu High Court.
“At that time, the corrupt system was already in place. I had inherited it. This was an open secret,” he added.
Conceding that he was not forced to accept bribes, Firdaus recalled how “brokers” were among those who greeted him when he reported for work as a young magistrate.
“These are the middlepersons between me and the crooks. When I reported for duty for the first time, they paid for my meals and secured a place for me to stay,” he added.
At the time, Firdaus’ L41 grade netted him a monthly income of RM1,500.
However, the former magistrate said he did not touch a single sen from this because he could earn as much as RM10,000 per case on the side.
“Imagine how much I would earn if there were three or four cases in a day?” he explained, adding that the temptation was too great to resist.
Firdaus revealed that he had splashed the money on luxury goods such as expensive watches and designer shoes.
“When you start making money, it is your turn to treat the brokers. I also sent money to my parents,” he added.
How the deal was sealed
In 2009, Firdaus presided over a case involving a drug offender who was earlier charged under Section 6 of the Dangerous Drugs Act. By then, he was well-known among certain circles as a corrupt magistrate.
The accused offered to pay RM5,000 to be released on bond instead of being sent to prison.
Explaining how the deal was sealed, Firdaus said the accused would express his intention to police personnel attached to the court and this was referred to as a “spark”.
The police personnel would then pass the message to his immediate superior, who is a chief inspector. The latter would then approach the accused to confirm the deal.
Once confirmed, the chief inspector, who meets the magistrate every morning, would relay the offer to Firdaus.
If the deal is sealed, the chief inspector would hire a lawyer to appeal for a lower sentence before the magistrate.
“We would take our cut when the job is settled,” Firdaus said.
However, in this case, the accused did not keep his end of the bargain after being released on bond, and this is what brought the corruption to light.
“The chief inspector threatened the accused that he would appeal and reinstate the prison sentence. But the accused lodged a police report and exposed all of us.
“The accused was protected under the MACC Act as a whistleblower,” the former magistrate added.
Firdaus was arrested on Oct 11, 2009, and was soon found guilty. At the time, his wife was pregnant with their first child.
He confessed that he had contemplated escape when the matter was heard at the Court of Appeal.
“I knew it was game over. I looked at the name of the panel of judges that included Abdul Wahab Patail and Jeffrey Tan. My lawyer was prepared but the case (against me) was strong. The judges won’t be fooled,” he said.
Firdaus said he took his car keys and was exiting the building through the back door when he bumped into his lawyer.
“He asked me where I was going, I told him that I am going to make a run for it. But he advised me to confront the problem and I listened to him.
“As expected, the judges upheld the conviction. I remember the sad look on the faces of my wife and mother-in-law,” he added.
At the time, Firdaus said he was still mourning the death of his mother, stepfather and brother, who perished in a car accident.
“My mother’s body was completely charred. I couldn’t help but think that I had fed my family with illegal proceeds,” he added.
Firdaus was to serve three years in prison but was freed on parole after 19 months for good behaviour.
A shot at redemption
In June 2014, Firdaus bumped into the MACC officer who investigated his case and this time around, it ended on a positive note.
“I saw him at a restaurant. He recognised me when I introduced myself as the ‘corrupt magistrate.’
“I told him that I wanted to share my experience with other government servants to prevent them from suffering a similar fate.”
With the help of the officer, Firdaus met the state MACC director to pitch his idea.
“The director liked the idea. My first sharing session was with the teachers’ institute in Kota Bharu. That got the ball rolling. This is what I do now,” said Firdaus.
Asked if he missed the legal profession, he replied: “If I could turn back time, I would become a magistrate who upholds justice, not one who is corrupt.”
By : FAISAL ASYRAF – MALAYSIAKINI