Bid to stop politicians likely involved being exposed
Published on: Friday, February 03, 2023
By: Jo Ann Mool
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Bid to stop politicians likely involved being exposed
Ag Mohd Tahir, 58, Fauziah, 55, were jointly tried with Lim Lam Beng, 66, on 37 counts of money laundering charges, involving cash and bank savings amounting to RM61.57million, as well as unlawful possession of luxury goods.
Kota Kinabalu: The Special Corruption Court hearing the trial involving two former officials of the Sabah Water Department and one of their wives in Sabah’s biggest RM130 million scandal will decide Friday (today) on the admissibility of parts of the witness statement of the prosecution’s key witness.

Among others, it deals with whether to allow public disclosure of remaining individuals, including Ministers who held the State Infrastructure Development portfolio overseeing the State Water Department,  who may have been involved in the scandal that ultimately may have caused Sabahans to be denied their right to clean water, from washing and drinking to ablution for prayers. 

The names of two Ministers have been mentioned in court so far, which the defence insists is hearsay.

Sessions Court Judge Abu Bakar Manat set the date for former State Water Department director Ag Mohd Tahir Ag Ag Mohd Talib and his wife Fauziah Piut and former State Water Department deputy director Lim Lam Beng, who were charged with money laundering, after hearing submissions from all parties on the objection to several issues raised by the accused’s counsel.

Lim’s counsel Datuk Tan Hock Chuan wanted certain contents of the witness statement of the prosecution’s 29th witness, Teo Chee Kong, to be expunged.

Teo had given his statement by reading his written submissions on Jan 11 and Jan 12, which in the meantime the court marked Teo’s written statement for easy reference.

He was temporarily released on Jan. 12 afternoon and subject to be recalled following the prosecution’s application for additional questions for Teo, tendering of exhibits and submissions regarding objection on several issues by Lim’s counsel on his written statement to be admitted as evidence, to be held on Feb. 2.

On Thursday, Tan submitted, among others, that the evidence of Teo’s written statement were too remote from the date in the charges preferred against Lim; the prejudicial effect in allowing those evidence outweighs its probative effect; and that the parts disputed were considered to be hearsay.

Tan said Teo referred to events which dated back to 2004, which are too remote from the dates in the charges against Lim – October and November 2016 and that they were irrelevant to the charges against Lim. Hence, that they should be expunged from the record.

He also claimed that Teo’s testimony was very prejudicial to Lim which far outweighed any probative value.

The counsel also submitted that the court should not admit evidence based on hearsay or when its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value, even though Teo’s testimony was a sworn statement by him.

He said there was a danger that hearsay evidence may be concocted, fabricated and tailored to suit the witness’ testimony, as in the case of Teo’s witness statement.

“In the instant case, PW29 (Teo) was the fourth accused facing 146 charges and the prosecution had withdrawn all the charges against him and in return, he agreed to become a prosecution witness. Clearly, there is a danger that hearsay evidence adduced throughout this witness statement may be concocted, fabricated and tailored to suit his testimony in court. Such evidence should be expunged by this court,” submitted Tan.

He added that Teo’s witness statement consists of several out-of-court assertions allegedly made between him and several third parties which implicated Lim and that such assertions made by Teo are tantamount to hearsay evidence and its prejudicial effect of such evidence outweighs its probative value.

He claimed that in the present case, Teo in his sworn testimony had “carelessly mentioned several individuals who were not even parties to this case.

“Such testimony is irrelevant to the charge and prejudicial not only to the third accused (Lim) but also to the other parties who are not even parties in this case and some of them had even passed away.

“I read the local news, one or two days after this…to say that now MACC is going to investigate all people whether VIP or otherwise, civil servants and politicians who were mentioned as a result of this careless testimony by PW29,” said Tan.

Meanwhile, counsel Priskila Akwila Sinem representing Ag Mohd Tahir and Fauziah also applied for Teo’s sworn witness statement to be expunged from the record.

Priskila in her submission, among others, stated that the witness statement was in the national language and unaccompanied with any translation and that the tendering of the said witness statement was in contravention of Article 161 (3) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.

“There is as yet no enactment in the legislature of the State of Sabah that allows for the use of the National language in the Subordinate Courts of Sabah, therefore Teo’s statement must be expunged from the record,” she said.

Priskila also applied that the trial be discontinued and that Ag Mohd Tahir and Fauziah be discharged accordingly or alternatively the trial be stayed, adding that she had filed a criminal revision regarding the matter at the High Court on Feb. 1.

The prosecution, however, contended that although certain parts of Teo’s evidence dates back to 2005, the evidence is crucial as it forms part of the prosecution case.

It argued that expunging the evidence that relates to the discussion that Teo had with Lim and Ag Mohd Tahir in 2005, that ultimately led to the “central collection scheme” would have the effect of erasing any evidence that would go to show the cause of the scheme or the motive of Lim and Ag Mohd Tahir, adding that the evidence goes to the crux of the prosecution’s case.

“The objection raised by Lim at this juncture smacks of premature. As we have indicated earlier, the prosecution has not adduced any additional evidence up to this point. 

“In that regard, there are additional questions that would add light to Teo’s testimony as well as evidence in his witness statement,” said the prosecution.

The prosecution submitted that it would also be contrary to Section 60 of the Evidence Act 1950 to request that the court expunge parts of Teo’s evidence in his witness statement, on the grounds of hearsay.

“We request that the court assess the entirety of the prosecution’s case before deciding on the admissibility of certain parts in Teo’s witness statement,” the prosecution said.

The prosecution further submitted that it has not completed its case and expunging any evidence at this juncture risk prejudicing the prosecution from establishing its case.

Further, it submitted that Lim is allowed the opportunity to cross-examine Teo, and wherein the chance to test the accuracy, veracity, and credibility of Teo’s sworn testimony.

On Priskilla’s stay application, the prosecution applied for it to be dismissed as, among others, a stay of proceedings is a matter of discretion of the trial judge and no reasonable reason had been shown for the trial to be stayed.

Ag Mohd Tahir, 58, Fauziah, 55, were jointly tried with Lim Lam Beng, 66, on 37 counts of money laundering charges, involving cash and bank savings amounting to RM61.57million, as well as unlawful possession of luxury goods.

They had on Dec 29, 2016 pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Mahadi Abdul Jumaat and Haresh Prakash Somiah appeared for the prosecution.

Together with Tan in representing Lim was counsel Baldev Singh and Karpaljit Singh. Counsel Ram Singh held a watching brief for Teo.

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