A lawyer has rejected the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ explanation as to why Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng was acquitted of his corruption charge, and urged for an immediate enquiry into how the case was dropped.
J Gunamalar, of Messrs Gunamalar Law Chambers, also called for attorney-general Tommy Thomas to file a notice of appeal.
“We reject the explanation made by the AGC in the said press release. We demand that an inquiry is commissioned immediately to investigate the circumstances that have led to the acceptance of the letters of representation by the AGC.
“In the meantime, we call upon the AG to file a notice of appeal within the time stipulated to give the Court of Appeal an opportunity to review whether or not the decision of the honourable judge to order an acquittal, instead of a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA), was justified, given the circumstances of the case,” she said in a statement yesterday.
Kepala Batas MP Reezal Merican Naina Merican similarly called for the AGC to appeal the acquittal.
AGC's explanation is a ‘lame excuse’
Yesterday, AGC's Appellate and Trial Division head Mohd Hanafiah Zakaria had explained that it was he, not the AG, who had decided to drop charges against Lim and businessperson Phang Li Koon (photo).
The DPP said his decision to enter nolle prosequi (where public prosecutor does not propose to further prosecute) was free of any “influence” and was in fact made after fresh evidence “substantially weakened” the case.
Gunamalar criticised this as being “nothing but a lame excuse” and an “afterthought” that was not made in good faith.
She also listed three rebuttals to Hanafiah’s explanation.
“Firstly, it is the duty of the honourable judge [...] to subject the evidence led by the prosecution in its totality to a maximum evaluation to determine whether or not a prima facie case has been established.
“Secondly, the prosecution has not closed its case and there are several other key witnesses who are yet to take the stand, let alone be cross-examined by the defence counsels.
“Thirdly, the said criminal trials were conducted by (DPP) Mohd Masri (Mohd Daud), and not by 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?” she asked.
“It is our considered view that the decision of the AGC to withdraw the said charges against the said accused persons has created an impression that there is an actual or perceived bias in favour of them (Lim and Phang), especially in favour of Lim,” she added.
No guarantee AG did not interfere
Gunamalar further implied that the AG was close to his former client, Lim.
“It is not disputed that the current AG has acted for Lim in a different but related proceeding [...]
“Also, it is not disputed that Lim was appointed as the finance minister by the king on the advice of the prime minister (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) during the course of the said criminal trials, and Tommy was also equally appointed as the AG by the king on the advice of the prime minister, soon after that,” she alleged, not offering more detailed explanation.
On Aug 2, Thomas (photo) recused himself from the case and announced that solicitors general Engku Nor Faizah Engku Atek and Zauyah Loth Khan would be presiding over the case instead.
Calling Engku Nor Faizah and Zauyah "Thomas' subordinates", Gunamalar doubted this arrangement guaranteed non-interference from the AG.
“Article 145(1) of the Federal Constitution provides that the AG shall have the power, exercisable at his discretion, to institute, conduct or discontinue any proceedings for an offence.
“Furthermore, Section 376(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that the AG shall be the public prosecutor and shall have the control and direction of all criminal prosecutions and proceedings under this code.
“Thomas was (and still is) the AG and the public prosecutor, at the time when the decision was made by the AGC to discontinue the said criminal trials,” she said in the same statement.
For the record, Gunamalar is the lawyer for blogger Muhsin Latheef, better known by his pen name "Mamu Parpu", who had lodged the police and MACC reports against Lim.
Muhsin was among the witnesses the prosecution called during the trial.
The Penang High Court had on Monday acquitted Lim over two graft charges over the alleged status conversion of state land and the purchase of a bungalow at below-market value.
The court had also acquitted Phang from the charge of abetting Lim in obtaining the bungalow at an undervalued cost.
In an immediate response, the MACC said it was “very shocked” over both acquittals and distanced itself from the decision.