The Attorney-General's Chambers has dismissed suggestions that its decision to drop the corruption case against Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was politically motivated, or that attorney-general Tommy Thomas was involved in the decision.
Appellate and Trial Division/Deputy Public Prosecutor head Mohamad Hanafiah Zakaria said it was he who decided to drop the charge against Lim and businessperson Phang Li Koon after being tasked with deciding on representations made by both accused.
Prior to this, Hanafiah did not participate in the case in any way.
"I wish to stress that I have decided on the representations without any influence from any quarters. In fact, there was a letter from a legal firm representing the complainant in the above-said case objecting to any idea of withdrawing the charges against Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon.
"I have responded to the letter that I will decide the case based on available evidence and governing law, which I did, without fear or favour. My utmost priority is justice," he said in a statement today.
Below is Hanafiah's statement in full:
- I would like to clarify that the Hon Attorney-General had no hand in the decision to enter nolle prosequi (where public prosecutor does not propose further to prosecute the accused) on the charges against Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon. This is clearly stated in the joint press release dated 2nd August 2018 by the Solicitor-General Datuk Engku Nor Faizah binti Engku Atek and the then Solicitor-General II Datin Paduka Zauyah Be binti T Loth Khan that the Hon Attorney General has recused himself in all deliberations regarding the above-said case, and will not be involved in any decision the AGC will decide in the above-said case.
- AGC has adopted the "fresh eye" technique, and I was tasked to decide on the representations made by both Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon's case as I had not participated in any way with the case earlier. Accordingly, I was able to consider the matter with a fresh perspective.
- Having given the said task, I have perused the evidence that has been investigated by MACC and the evidence that have been adduced and tested under cross-examination thus far, I concluded that as a result of the cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses who have testified so far, the evidence supporting the first charge under Section 23 of the MACC Act and under Section 165 of the Penal Code has been substantially weakened. This conclusion was arrived at in light of fresh evidence that has arisen during the cross-examination of prosecution witnesses.
- Having made the above findings, I opined that I would not be fulfilling my duties as Deputy Public Prosecutor to let the case continue knowing full well that the case against both Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon would not succeed at the end of the prosecution case. Hence, I decided for the prosecution to enter nolle prosequi against both Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon in accordance with Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Yesterday at 7.18am, I communicated my decision to Dato' Masri Mohd Daud, who is the Director of Legal and Prosecution Division of MACC and a Deputy Public Prosecutor, who was at that time in Penang. In spite of the Prosecution request for the Court to order a "discharge not amounting to acquittal", the Court made an order for a discharge and acquittal. This was upon the application of the Counsel for the accused and was in accordance to section 254(3) of the CPC.
- I wish to reiterate that the practice to enter nolle prosequi is not something out of the ordinary. This practice has been exercised in many other cases upon representation by counsel and upon discovery of fresh evidence or that the evidence has weakened under cross-examination. Similarly, in the case against Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon, there was fresh evidence that has not been previously considered.
- It ought to be emphasised that the decision in respect of initiating prosecution or discontinuing it is a matter within the prerogative and powers of the public prosecutor. In this case, I kept confidential my decision until the very last minute and did not consult the investigative agency fearing it might leak and cause unnecessary alarm. In fact, my decision was so confidential that I only informed the AG personally at 9.44am yesterday.
- I wish to stress that I have decided the representations without any influence from any quarters. In fact, there was a letter from a legal firm representing the complainant in the above-said case objecting to any idea of withdrawing the charges against Lim Guan Eng and Phang Li Koon. I have responded to the letter that I will decide the case based on available evidence and governing law, which I did, without fear or favour.
- My utmost priority is justice.