PUTRAJAYA: A High Court judge was stopped from presiding in the RM1 million corruption trial of former minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as he could be biased, the Court of Appeal said.
It said Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali was disqualified “in order to maintain the highest standard of public confidence in the judiciary.”
On Feb 12, a three-member bench led by Yaacob Md Sam allowed the appeal by Tengku Adnan, better known as Ku Nan, but the written grounds were made available last week.
Others on the panel were Rhodzariah Bujang and Hadhariah Syed Ismail.
Ku Nan’s trial has been suspended pending the outcome of the prosecution’s appeal in the Federal Court.
Rhodzariah said the bench felt that Nazlan might be biased despite an assurance that he would not be prejudiced against Ku Nan after presiding over businessman Tan Eng Boon’s case.
“How could he, having not just looked at but also considered the facts of the case as well as the documentary exhibits tendered in support of the plea of Tan that he offered the bribe to the appellant (Ku Nan) which was accepted, be able to completely obliterate this crucial fact from his mind?” she said.
Rhodzariah, who wrote the 14-page verdict, said the bench did not in any way question the integrity of Nazlan or his ability to decide on Ku Nan’s case in accordance with the evidence adduced before him.
“We are also equally mindful that such evidence adduced by both sides would be subject to cross-examination and would be given a maximum evaluation by the learned judge (Nazlan),” she said.
She said the danger was that the judge had accepted Tan’s guilty plea which “in our view cannot be effaced”.
“In other words, such a possibility of bias could not be ruled out, even though the probability could,” she added.
She cited former Federal Court judge Abdul Hamid Mohamed in the 2006 case of Tan Heng Chew v Tan Kim Hor, saying Ku Nan’s appeal was allowed “in order to maintain the highest standard of public confidence in the judiciary”.
On Sept 20, Nazlan dismissed Ku Nan’s attempt to recuse him (Nazlan) because the former minister had failed to show that he would be biased.
Nazlan had three days earlier (Sept 17) convicted and sentenced Tan, who pleaded guilty to abetting Ku Nan to an alternative charge after the businessman entered into a plea bargain.
Nazlan fined Tan RM1.5 million or 12 months’ imprisonment.
Tan, who is also the director of a property and development company, was accused of giving Ku Nan RM1 million in bribes through a Public Bank cheque belonging to Pekan Nenas Industries Sdn Bhd.
The cheque was deposited into a CIMB Bank account owned by Ku Nan.
The Putrajaya MP, meanwhile, was charged with receiving the RM1 million payment from Tan to approve an application by Nucleus Properties Sdn Bhd (now known as Paragon City Development Sdn Bhd) to increase the industrial plot ratio of a piece of land on Jalan Semarak.
The offence was allegedly committed at the Putra World Trade Centre CIMB bank branch on Dec 27, 2013.
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