Why didn’t prosecution ask for postponement? Complainant in Guan Eng’s case asks

Boo Su-Lyn
Yesterday, Lim and businesswoman Phang were acquitted by the High Court in Penang of corruption charges over the purchase of a double-storey standalone house below market value when Lim was Penang chief minister. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 ― The complainant in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption case questioned today why the prosecution did not request a postponement instead of withdrawing the charges against the finance minister.

Lawyers for Muhsin Abdul Latheef, who is the complainant and first prosecution witness in the corruption trial of Lim and businesswoman Phang Li Koon, also said if the prosecution case had indeed collapsed beyond repair during the prosecution stage, deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Datuk Mohd Masri Daud had no reason to demand a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA).

“On the other hand, if Datuk Masri needs a breather so that he could reorganise his strategies, then he should have asked for a further postponement, instead of exercising his power to withdraw the charge under section 254(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code,” Muhsin’s lawyers said in a statement today.

“Had Datuk Masri asked for a postponement, the Honourable Judge either will grant the said postponement or order a DNAA. There is no option for the Honourable Judge in such case to order an acquittal. We are unable to fathom why such approach was not considered by the Attorney General’s Chambers.”

Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) appellate and trial division head Datuk Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria said in a statement that the evidence supporting the corruption charges had been substantially weakened following cross-examination of prosecution witnesses who have testified so far.

“This, in our opinion, is nothing but a lame excuse or may be an afterthought on the part of the Attorney General’s Chambers,” said the complainant’s lawyers in response.

They pointed out that it was the judge’s duty, not the Attorney-General’s, to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been established.

They also noted that the prosecution has not closed its case and several key witnesses have yet to take the stand or to be cross-examined by defence lawyers.

“Thirdly, the said criminal trials were conducted by Datuk Masri, and not by Datuk Hanafiah. How is it even remotely possible for a man, no matter how learned he is, to attach any meaningful weight to the testimony of witnesses, whose demeanour he has no advantage of seeing?” they said.

The complainant’s lawyers said Attorney General Tommy Thomas, who was appointed after Pakatan Harapan (PH) won the 2018 election, had previously represented Lim in his application to set aside the leave granted to the former Attorney General, Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali, to initiate a contempt proceeding against Lim, for claiming that the said charges were a part of a conspiracy to send him to the prison.

They also said when a judge recuses himself or herself from a case to prevent conflict of interest, another judge equal to them would replace them.

“Nonetheless, in the case of the Attorney General, there is no one who is equal to him and who can effectively replace him. The Solicitor-Generals and all other Deputy Public Prosecutors are his mere subordinates!

“Therefore, we have reasons to believe, or at least suspect, that the decision of the Attorney General’s Chambers to enter nolle prosequi in this case was not made in good faith,” said the lawyers, referring to the principle where the public prosecutor does not propose further to prosecute the accused.

The complainant’s lawyers demanded an inquiry to investigate the AGC’s acceptance of the accused duo’s letters of representation and urged the AG to file a notice of appeal against the High Court’s decision to acquit the DAP secretary-general.

Yesterday, Lim and businesswoman Phang were acquitted by the High Court in Penang of corruption charges over the purchase of a double-storey standalone house below market value when Lim was Penang chief minister.

Lim was charged with using his position as a public officer, when he was chief minister of Penang, to obtain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew, by approving an application by a company called Magnificent Emblem Sdn Bhd, to convert agricultural land to residential purpose during a state planning committee meeting on July 18, 2014.

He was alleged to have used his position to obtain gratification by buying his house from Phang at RM2.8 million, which was below the property’s market value of RM4.27 million on July 28, 2015.

Phang meanwhile was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code for abetting Lim on July 28 last year in regards to his purchase of the house on Pinhorn Road from her for RM2.8 million which was below the market value or RM4.27 million whereby Lim had allegedly committed an offence under Section 165 of the Penal Code.

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