KUALA LUMPUR - Three Pakistanis and a Singaporean were charged in a Malaysian court on Wednesday with abducting a South African diplomat last month.
Deputy High Commissioner Nicky Scholtz, 54, reported that he was forced into a car as he walked along a Kuala Lumpur street on May 23, robbed and held prisoner for several days before being freed.
Pakistani nationals Nisar Ahmad Khan Sardar Ali Khan, 35, Arshad Mehmood Mohammad Shafi, 38, and Shahid Mehmood Muhamad Bashir Ahmad, 28, and Singaporean Narajan Singh Ujagar Singh, 67, pleaded not guilty to the charge of abducting him, the Bernama news agency said.
The three Pakistanis were also charged with stealing a chequebook, a South African passport, 200 dollars, 10,000 Taiwan dollars and a handphone from Scholtz’s hotel room.
All the accused were denied bail. Judge Akhtar Tahir fixed the trial for December 8.
Scholtz, a bachelor who arrived in Malaysia last month, was the victim of “what appears to have been a random attack on the mistaken assumption that he was a solitary foreign tourist”, the South African embassy said.
If convicted, the suspects face a maximum jail term of seven years for abducting Scholtz and up to 10 years for theft, Bernama said.
Arshad Mehmood also faced charges of stealing a watch, 500 ringgit (131.60 dollars) and credit cards from Scholtz outside the hotel along with Shahid Mehmood, Narajan Singh and a fourth suspect still at large, it said. This charge carries a maximum 14 years’ imprisonment and fine or whipping upon conviction.
May 31, 2004
South African envoy Nicky Scholtz was snatched last weekend by a gang of kidnappers as he left his Malaysian hotel for a stroll - possibly because they thought he was American or British.
Career diplomat Scholtz (54), who became deputy high commissioner to Malaysia on April 20, was dumped next to a highway by his abductors early yesterday. He then walked, barefoot, to the South African High Commission offices in Kuala Lumpur.
Scholtz suffered minor bruises and was under observation in a hospital, but he was otherwise well, police officials said.
Malaysian police were yesterday afternoon still debriefing Scholtz about his abduction, and had not made any arrests.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the department had not yet spoken to him.
Scholtz's only relative, his brother Danie Scholtz, said from his Paarl home: "My brother called me at about 2am. He did not say much, only confirming that the people who abducted him had released him and that he was fine."
"Nicky never married and had no children. He was loyal and very dedicated. This incident is the last thing we imagined could happen to him.
Scholtz: Was given RM50 and abandoned by abductors
"The last few days have been difficult. I had so many questions that could not be answered. But the Foreign Affairs officials were in constant contact with me."
Dr Abbey Nkomo, South Africa's high commissioner to Malaysia, said Scholtz had hardly settled in the country and had still been staying at the Hotel Nikko in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, when the incident occurred.
"We are happy to report his release. At the moment a debriefing exercise is under way and a final statement will be released by the Malaysian authorities after the investigations have been completed."
According to Nkomo, Scholtz - a former ambassador to Taiwan and Hungary - told hotel staff last Sunday evening that he was going for a walk. He was then accosted on the street by a group of men, blindfolded and bundled into a vehicle before being driven about 60km out of the city.
It is believed that Scholtz was assaulted by his captors. It has also been established that withdrawals of 3 000 Malaysian Ringgit (about R5 160) had been made from Scholtz's bank account by his captors.
Dr Anil Sooklal, deputy director-general for the Middle East and Asia in the Department of Foreign Affairs, said Scholtz's captors beat him and even threatened that he would be killed. Malaysian police were establishing whether or not they made any ransom demands.
Scholtz was supposed to have attended a conference early last week, at the Hotel Nikko, but was only missed on Wednesday.
Hotel staff checked security cameras, which revealed two men entering his room and leaving with a plastic bag.
The tape has been handed to police. Sooklal said the suspects might have mistaken Scholtz for an American or British citizen, only to release him once news of his disappearance - as well as his nationality - became public.
May 29 2004
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Police on Saturday made a public appeal for help to find a senior South African diplomat who has been reported missing in Malaysia, and refused to rule out the possibility he had been kidnapped.
Deputy High Commissioner Nicky Scholtz, 54, was last seen on Sunday night in his hotel room in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police and South African officials said.
South African officials lodged a missing persons report for Scholtz, whose full name is Cornelius ven Niekerk Scholtz, with Malaysian police on Wednesday after their own investigations drew a blank, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
Police called a news conference on Saturday to distribute photographs of Scholtz and make their appeal for information, but declined to give details of the case.
"We seek the help of any members of the public who have information about Mr Scholtz to contact the police," said Hadi Ho Abdullah, police chief at the downtown Dang Wangi district.
Asked whether police believe Scholtz is still in Malaysia, Hadi said, "We are investigating all angles. At this time, we don't want to speculate."
Other police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Scholtz was staying at the luxury downtown hotel, the Nikko, when he disappeared. They refused to say whether they were treating the case as a kidnap.
Hadi also declined to say if police had boosted security for other foreign diplomats in Malaysia.
At the news conference, High Commissioner Abraham Sokhaya Nkomo said he was satisfied with the investigation and was confident the police would "proceed with the utmost professional skill to try to unravel this matter."
He also declined to elaborate on the case.
"In view of the pending investigations, it is not useful for us to go into very long details," he told reporters. "We ask to media to bear with us because there are certain constraints."
Scholtz was representing South Africa at a conference on African development that was being held at the hotel at the time of his disappearance.
Malaysia was a new posting for Scholtz, who arrived April 20. Officials said he was single. - Sapa-AP
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