Papers forged in ab­duc­tion case

Des­per­ate mother and daugh­ter flee to New Zealand. Matt Ste­wart and An­dre Chumko re­port.

Sunday Star-Times - - News -

A Malaysian dad says his es­tranged wife ab­ducted their only child by forg­ing his sig­na­ture and bring­ing her to New Zealand, al­leg­ing au­thor­i­ties were com­plicit in the saga.

But his wife claims she was flee­ing a life of vi­o­lence and abuse at his hands.

Ra­ji­nah Sel­l­vagu­maran ad­mit­ted forg­ing her hus­band Arvind’s sig­na­ture to bring their daugh­ter, 6, to New Zealand in 2016. A Malaysian court granted her full cus­tody in June 2018 but Arvind is fight­ing to get the child back.

Im­mi­gra­tion NZ says it be­came aware of the fa­ther’s ob­jec­tion on De­cem­ber 15 last year, more than a year after the child was brought here un­der false pre­tences, and con­firmed it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

Any de­ci­sion on the visa ap­pli­ca­tion needed care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of all fam­ily cir­cum­stances, it says.

The Sun­day Star-Times has seen a Malaysian po­lice re­port from 2013 that de­tails Sel­l­vagu­maran’s com­plaint that Arvind beat and stran­gled her, pulled her hair, ver­bally abused her, threw her into a glass win­dow un­til it smashed and locked him­self in a room with the daugh­ter and re­fused to come out.

She is still legally mar­ried to him in Malaysia, and al­leges he was abu­sive, and through­out their mar­riage forced her to give him money for drugs.

She al­leges Arvind was beat­ing them, which is why they came here. But he al­leges she took the child il­le­gally and the girl must be brought back.

A de­por­ta­tion li­a­bil­ity no­tice for the daugh­ter was served in March this year, but was later can­celled by Im­mi­gra­tion after of­fi­cials ac­cepted there were good rea­sons it shouldn’t go ahead, doc­u­ments seen by the Sun­day Star-Times state. Sel­l­vagu­maran al­leges her daugh­ter is happy here, and doesn’t want to live with her fa­ther.

Arvind says his wife has no ev­i­dence of abuse. ‘‘She doesn’t have ev­i­dence such as med­i­cal re­port and pic­tures ... The po­lice ad­vised Ra­ji­nah ver­bally that she should not make false ac­cu­sa­tions be­cause she could be charged,’’ he says.

‘‘Ra­ji­nah left [our daugh­ter] for one year with me (from June 2015). She was es­tab­lish­ing a re­la­tion­ship with her new part­ner dur­ing this time. If [our daugh­ter] was scared of me, she wouldn’t have aban­doned [her] for one whole year, no mother will do that if she was so con­cerned of the child’s safety.’’

Sel­l­vagu­maran first came to New Zealand alone in 2015, but brought her daugh­ter back with her on a trip in 2016.

Her hus­band’s lawyer, Don McKay, says it is apparent New Zealand is a ‘‘safe haven’’ for ab­duc­tors.

Malaysia – un­like New Zealand – is not a sig­na­tory to the Hague Con­ven­tion on the Civil As­pects of Child Ab­duc­tion, which pro­vides a le­gal process for the re­turn of chil­dren in in­ter­na­tional cus­tody dis­putes.

The con­ven­tion as­sumes the courts in the coun­try where the child usu­ally lives are best able to make de­ci­sions about the child.

Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and in­ter­na­tional child cus­tody ex­pert Jef­frey Edle­son says claims of abuse are of­ten plau­si­ble.

Edle­son says ha­bit­ual res­i­dence, where a child is set­tled in one lo­ca­tion over a year, is con­sid­ered the least dis­rup­tive for the child, and their life and long-term well­be­ing could be upset by a re­turn to their home coun­try.

‘‘She doesn’t have ev­i­dence such as med­i­cal re­port and pic­tures.’’ Arvind, above

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