PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) statement that it is “shocked” by the acquittal of former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng of graft charges has stunned Lim’s counsel Ramkarpal Singh.
Ramkarpal said he was “shocked” by the MACC’s reaction to Lim’s acquittal by the Penang High Court today on two counts of corruption after the prosecution told the court it wished to withdraw the charges.
“It is ridiculous for the MACC to claim ignorance of today’s development.
“The director of its own legal and prosecution division, Mohd Masri Daud, (had) informed the court that he was withdrawing the charges.
“I was in court this morning with other counsel for both accused and there was not a hint of dissatisfaction from Masri or his team reflecting MACC’s said claim,” said Ramkarpal, who is also the DAP Bukit Gelugor MP, in a statement.
Lim, who is now the federal minister of finance, and businesswoman Phang Li Koon were acquitted of the corruption charges against them over the purchase of a bungalow at allegedly below market price after the prosecution dropped the charges.
Masri, acting as the deputy public prosecutor, asked the court to consider a discharge not amounting to acquittal for the two.
However, the judge, Hadhariah Syed Ismail, decided to discharge and acquit the two, after agreeing with defence counsel that it was not right for the public prosecutor to leave a cloud hanging over their heads as they might be charged again in the future.
Ramkarpal said the judge was right in her decision as it was consistent with recent trends.
He said that in 2015, National Feedlot Corporation executive chairman Dr Mohamad Salleh Ismail, the husband of former Umno Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, was acquitted of two charges of criminal breach of trust involving RM49.7 million after the prosecution informed the court that it did not wish to pursue the matter.
In the Lim and Phang case, he said, both of them had submitted extensive and detailed representations to the attorney-general as to why the charges ought to have been withdrawn.
“The learned judge exercised the powers vested in her by ordering an acquittal as opposed to a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
“There was absolutely no error on her part in doing so, particularly when the prosecution itself indicated that it did not wish to proceed,” he said.
Ramkarpal said the MACC’s statement that it was shocked implied that Masri was not aware of the AG’s decision to withdraw the charges.
He urged Masri to clear the air and confirm that he did (know of the AG’s decision).
“There is nothing shocking about today’s acquittal as no man should be left with a possible prosecution in the future hanging over his head by the grant of an order of a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.
“(This is) especially (so) when there is a clear indication that the prosecution wishes to withdraw that charge against him.
“This is elementary and the MACC’s failure to understand this is most unfortunate,” said Ramkarpal.
On June 30, 2016, Lim was charged with using his public office or position as Penang chief minister to obtain gratification for himself and his wife, Betty Chew, by approving an application by Magnificent Emblem to convert agricultural land for residential purposes during a state exco meeting on July 18, 2014.
Lim was also charged under Section 165 of the Penal Code for allegedly using his position to obtain gratification by purchasing a bungalow from Phang at RM2.8 million, which was below the property’s market value of RM4.7 million at that time.
Phang, meanwhile, was charged under Section 109 of the Penal Code for abetting Lim on July 28, 2015.
She was alleged to have committed an offence under Section 165 of the Penal Code by using Lim’s position for gratification.