[EXCLUSIVE] Up to A-G to decide on appeal

TASNIM LOKMAN and AHMAD FAIRUZ OTHMAN

KUALA LUMPUR: The power is in the attorney-general’s (A-G) hands whether his chambers will appeal against the High Court’s acquittal of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng in his corruption case.

This was the view of the deputy public prosecutor in the case, who said it was up to A-G Tommy Thomas to file the appeal.

This turn of events occurred after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) expressed shock over the acquittal of Lim and businesswoman Phang Li Koon from charges of abuse of power.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Masri Mohd Daud, who led the prosecution team on Monday, said despite many views surrounding the issue, it was the prerogative of Thomas to decide if he wanted to pursue the case.

He said he did not know if Thomas would file the appeal.

Asked if it was up to the A-G to appeal against the High Court’s decision, Masri said: “Yes. It’s up to my boss... Only my boss can answer (that question).

“I have no idea whether (he will) appeal or not,” Masri told the New Straits Times.


Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Masri Mohd Daud says it’s up to Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to file the appeal. File pic by RAMDZAN MASIAM.

Based on the Criminal Procedure Code, an appeal against a court decision like this must be submitted within 14 days.

The procedure, as stated under the Criminal Procedure Code, is that any person who is dissatisfied with a judgment, sentence or order pronounced by a court in a criminal case or matter can appeal within 14 days of the time of the judgment, sentence or order being passed.

On Monday, the Penang High Court granted Lim and Phang a discharge amounting to an acquittal in the case, which sent shockwaves across both sides of the political divide and many people in the legal fraternity.

The decision came after an application was made by the deputy public prosecutor, following a representation sent by the defence to the attorney-general, to withdraw the case.

However, the deputy public prosecution applied for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in court on Monday.

Lim’s and Phang’s counsel had requested a full acquittal.

Judge Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail, in her judgment on Monday, agreed with the counsel that the charges “cannot be hanging over the head of the accused indefinitely”.

She told the court: “I cannot agree with the prosecution. We do not conduct cases on an instalment basis. There must be a stop. No comma, comma.

“So, after studying the whole case, and the long duration to get the decision, the court orders both accused to be discharged amounting to an acquittal.”

MACC was the first to express shock with the judgment and maintained that the decision to withdraw the case was made by the Attorney-General’s Chambers, not the commission.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also expressed surprise, but urged everyone to respect the court’s decision. He said those who could not accept the court’s decision could file an appeal.

On June 30, 2016, Lim claimed trial to using his position as a public officer, as then Penang chief minister, to gain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew Gek Cheng.

He was accused of doing so by approving the application for conversion of agriculture land to a public housing zone to a company, Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd.

He was charged with committing the offence while chairing the State Planning Committee meeting at the operations room, Level 28, Komtar, George Town, on July 18, 2014.

The charge, under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009, provides for up to 20 years’ jail and a fine of up to five times the sum or value of the bribe, or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

In the second charge, Lim also claimed trial to using his position to obtain a plot of land and a house in No. 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, from Phang for RM2.8 million, a price which he allegedly knew did not commensurate with the property’s then market value of RM4.27 million.

The offence was allegedly committed in No. 25, Jalan Pinhorn, George Town, on Oct 21, 2015.

The charge, under Section 165 of the Penal Code, provides for up to two years’ jail, or a fine, or both.

Phang was charged with abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost at the same place and date.

She was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code, read together with Section 165 of the same law, which provides for up to two years’ jail, or a fine, or both, upon conviction.

Lim’s and Phang’s trial began on March 26 and was postponed pending the 14th General Election.

A total of 25 witnesses were called and the case was last heard in March. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd