Lawyer questions move to review Guan Eng’s acquittal

Former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng and businesswoman Phang Li Koon after the High Court freed them of the corruption charges against them. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A criminal lawyer has questioned the move by the complainant in Lim Guan Eng’s corruption case to file a review against the former Penang chief minister’s acquittal of purchasing a bungalow at below market price.

Salim Bashir said the move by Facebook marketer Muhsin Abdul Latheef was odd, adding that he could only request that the attorney-general (AG) file an appeal in the Court of Appeal.

“Only the AG, who is the public prosecutor, can appeal against the decision of the High Court to acquit Lim and businesswoman Phang Li Koon,” he told FMT.

Salim had been asked whether Muhsin, who is also a prosecution witness, had the legal standing to file a review since this was a criminal case.

The lawyer said in criminal jurisprudence, the public prosecutor was the guardian of public interest.

“It is rather odd. I am perplexed over why Muhsin has filed a review,” he added.

It was reported last week that Muhsin is seeking an order for the High Court to review its Sept 3 decision to acquit Lim and Phang.

He said deputy public prosecutor Masri Mohd Daud’s request to stop the trial was invalid as Lim had a close relationship with AG Tommy Thomas, giving rise to a conflict of interest.

Masri had asked the judge to give Lim and Phang a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

However, their lawyers asked for an acquittal, saying there should be no charges hanging over their heads as the prosecution had not offered any evidence.

It is unclear whether the prosecution has appealed against the decision of judge Hadhariah Syed Ismail.

Salim said the prosecution had 14 days from Sept 3 to file their notice of appeal, adding however that they could ask for an extension.

Meanwhile, Lim’s lawyer, Ramkarpal Singh, said he had not been served with cause papers by Muhsin.

“Lim has a direct interest in the said review application because he was an accused in the trial,” Ramkarpal added.

Lim was charged in June 2016 with using his public office 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.

He was also charged under Section 165 of the Penal Code with 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 was charged with abetting Lim on July 28, 2015 after buying the former’s bungalow at Pinhorn Road.