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Bid to stop disclosure rejected
Published on: Saturday, February 04, 2023
By: Jo Ann Mool
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Bid to stop disclosure rejected
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 RM61.57 million, as well as unlawful possession of luxury goods.
Kota Kinabalu: The Special Court hearing Sabah’s biggest corruption scandal involving RM130 million dismissed an application, Friday, to have certain paragraphs of the statement of the prosecution’s star witness expunged.

Sessions Court Judge Abu Bakar Manat ruled that the application was still premature as evidence had not yet been adduced by the prosecution.

The third accused, former State Water Department deputy director Lim Lam Beng, who was jointly charged with former State Water Department director Ag Mohd Tahir Ag Ag Mohd Talib (first accused) and his wife Fauziah Piut (second accused), had applied to expunge certain contents of the witness statement of the prosecution’s 29th witness, Teo Chee Kong.

Lim’s counsel Datuk Tan Hock Chuan had, among others, contended that the evidence of Teo’s written statement was 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 in the said statement were considered to be hearsay.

Abu Bakar held that whether the statement by Teo was too remote as its goes back to 2004 whereas the charge preferred against Lim was in October and November 2016 was not relevant to the facts in issue, scandalous and prejudicial to the accused and/or its prejudicial effect outweighs its probative value.

The court would decide and may only make a finding after hearing all the evidence adduced by the prosecution.

“For the court to consider whether the statement given is hearsay, concocted, fabricated, tailored and/or scandalous and therefore not relevant to the facts in issue, it is my considered view that evidence must be first led by the Prosecution.

“Only by doing so, the court can evaluate the evidence and later decide that the statements given are relevant or not and whether the statements are hearsay, scandalous and whether it is admissible in court as evidence or otherwise.

“Furthermore, the court must let the prosecution tender their evidence against the accused first in order to enable the court to consider if there are sufficient reasons or evidence for the charges to sustain or not.

“And this, of course, necessitates the trial to commence first, then only the court will evaluate the evidence and make a finding whether the charges are sustainable or otherwise and whether the prosecution manages to prove its case against the accused as charged,” held Abu Bakar.

“On the issue of remoteness of event, Section 6 of the Evidence Act 1950 allows for fact, though not in issue if so connected with fact in issue as to form part of the same transaction are relevant, whether they occurred at the same time and place or at different times and places.

“No precise limits can be prescribed. In some cases, two facts occurring at the same time and place may have no connection between them; but in other cases, two facts separated by a vast distance and place may be parts of the same transaction.

“In this regard, this court agrees with the submission put forward by the prosecution that since this case involves a very big organised corruption scandal, involving a lot of monies and transactions, involving many parties from top up to down, therefore the prosecution has to prove the linkages and background of the events way back from 2005 until this case exploded in 2016.

“Since PW29 (Teo) is the star witness for the prosecution, his testimony and evidence in court are very crucial. If his witness statement be expunged, it will lead prosecution with no evidence in establishing its case against the accused. The prosecution will not be able to corroborate the evidence of PW29 on material parts of his evidence by calling other witnesses and tendering relevant documents.

“Therefore, it will be depriving and prejudicing the prosecution to establish its case and definitely a premature act to do so,” said Abu Bakar.

On the objection to the names that were said to be irrelevant in the case, the court held that the names read by Teo in his witness statement be retained in said statement.

On the issue raised by the counsel of Ag Mohd Tahir and Fauziah regarding the use of Bahasa Malaysia on Teo’s witness statement and unaccompanied with any translation, Abu Bakar held that the argument by the counsel was not a point of interest by the court since it was settled law that a witness may choose whatever language he/she preferred to use in Court while giving evidence be it Malay, English or his/her mother tongue language.

Teo, who had given his statement by reading his written submissions on Jan 11 and Jan 12, was temporarily released on Jan 12 afternoon and subject to be recalled following the objection on several issues by the counsel on his written statement to be admitted as evidence.

His written statement was in the meantime marked by the court for easy reference.

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 RM61.57 million, 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.

Ag Mohd Tahir and Fauziah were represented by counsel Priskila Akwila Sinem while Lim was represented by counsel Datuk Tan Hock Chuan, Baldev Singh and Kelvin Wong.

Counsel Ram Singh held a watching brief for Teo. The trial resumes on Feb 22-24.

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