SINGAPORE: The owner of well-known restaurant Zam Zam was sentenced to six years' jail and six strokes of the cane on Monday (May 11) for conspiring to have a man from a rival eatery slashed.
Zackeer Abbass Khan, 49, had been found guilty after a long-running trial of conspiring with several others to have Victory restaurant supervisor Liakath Ali Mohamed Ibrahim slashed and scarred.
He intends to appeal, his lawyer said.
Zackeer had instructed business associate and long-time friend Anwer Ambiya Kadir Maideen, 50, to procure an attack on the victim from the murtabak restaurant next door.
Anwer, the middleman in the scheme, was given five-and-a-half years' jail.
He had hired secret society member Joshua Navindran Surainthiran to slash the victim on the face with a knife on Aug 26, 2015, for S$1,700.
Both Zackeer and Anwer were found guilty of a charge of conspiring to cause grievous hurt to the victim, who was left with a permanent scar.
Zackeer was convicted of another charge of criminal intimidation for threatening the victim, saying: "I see how you will work here and within one week I will either hit or kill you."
READ: Zam Zam owner convicted of conspiring to hire hitman to slash rival from Victory murtabak restaurant
Anwer pleaded guilty on Monday to one additional charge of being a member of a secret society, with two other similar charges taken into consideration.
The case was all about business rivalry, said District Judge Mathew Joseph, dating back to 2005 when Zackeer and the victim were business partners.
After the business failed, Zackeer blamed the victim for being "cheated" of S$80,000 and tensions increased after the victim joined the rival Victory restaurant.
Allegations were tossed back and forth of customers being pulled away, and things came to a head on Aug 22, 2015, when the police went to both restaurants in North Bridge Road to advise them to stop touting.
Four days later, Joshua slashed the victim on the face. For his involvement, he was sentenced to six-and-a-half years' jail and six strokes of the cane in 2016, after pleading guilty to several charges.
AS A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESSMAN, ZACKEER SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER: JUDGE
"This case is a salutory and sad reminder that one should not allow the red mist of bitterness and anger to cloud one's better judgment," said Judge Joseph.
He told Zackeer that he was a "successful businessman in Singapore", as evidenced in the success of Zam Zam, and "should have known better".
"The resulting consequences can be severe for both the victim and the perpetrators involved. Certainly there can be no place in our society for gratuitous violence arising out of mere business rivalry," said the judge.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Claire Poh had asked for six years and six months' jail and six strokes of the cane for Zackeer, whom she called the mastermind in the case.
Zackeer had been convicted in 1998 of snatch theft and given a year's jail.
She asked for five years and seven months' jail for Anwer, of which three months were in lieu of six strokes of the cane as he has turned 50.
She said Anwer was a middleman "who had no qualms" about the attack being carried out, and noted that he was a senior secret society member for many years.
Anwer has a list of previous offences dating from 1993, including rioting, causing hurt with common intention and being a member of a secret society.
Lawyer Sarbrinder Singh asked instead for three years and three months' jail, three strokes of the cane and a fine for Zackeer, saying that his client was not the mastermind as he was largely "out of the picture" and did not take part "in every single logistical effort".
Anwer's lawyer Peter Keith Fernando asked for four years' jail for the conspiracy charge, and two months for the secret society offence.
He said Anwer has been "an inactive member" of the gang for a substantial period of time.
ANWER ADDRESSES THE COURT
Anwer told the judge that he was very remorseful for his actions and deeply regrets "the one simple mistake I made, thinking I was assisting a friend in need".
Referring to Zackeer, who stood beside him in the dock, Anwer said: "Now I realise I was merely used as a pawn for his business needs. I have learned a very painful and expensive lesson. I've lost the custody of my beloved son and wife. We have been separated due to this court case."
He added that he has lost all his life savings due to the court case and is now facing years of imprisonment. Since his last imprisonment, he has started a restaurant business that funds his family and obtained a diploma.
He said Zackeer, who was his friend for 20 years, "made use of me as a shield to get his own malicious deeds done".
"I want to amend my ways and be a good father to my son, who has always been my priority," said Anwer.
The judge found that the defence had downplayed Anwer's role as a middleman, and failed to take into account that Zackeer was "the mastermind of the entire conspiracy".
He granted Anwer his request to defer sentence as he needed to arrange for someone to take over his restaurant business, which has been "suffering" because of COVID-19.