Federal Court reverses ruling to replace judge in Ku Nan’s RM1 million graft case

The Federal Court says the practice of a presiding judge continuing to hear a joint trial after a co-accused has pleaded guilty is settled law in the country.

PUTRAJAYA: High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali will continue hearing the RM1 million corruption case of former minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor following the Federal Court’s ruling today reversing an earlier court decision that Nazlan would be biased.

Judge Rhodzariah Bujang, who delivered the judgment of the appellate court on Feb 12, had said that Nazlan might be biased despite assurances to the contrary after presiding over the case of businessman Tan Eng Boon.

However, a three-member bench of the apex court chaired by Nallini Pathmanathan today said the Court of Appeal had arrived at an unwarranted view as judges are professionals who issue judgments based on evidence.

“A judge, unlike jurors, is trained in the law to remain impartial despite reading the facts related to a case,” she said in the unanimous decision allowing the prosecution’s appeal.

Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali

Others on the bench were Vernon Ong Lam Kiat and Abdul Rahman Sebli.

Nallini also said judges took the judicial oath of office which required adherence to the Federal Constitution.

“Article 5 of the constitution which ensures the right to life encompasses the right to fair trial,” she added.

She also said  the function and independence of a judge could not be undermined by spurious and insubstantial attempts to allege bias.

She added that the practice of a presiding judge continuing to hear a joint trial after a co-accused has pleaded guilty was settled law in the country.

She said the Court of Appeal had also failed to consider the fact that even if the case was referred to another judge, the record of a guilty plea and the facts of the case would be equally available to the new judge.

“Therefore, any allegation of a real danger of bias is palpably unfounded in relation to the original presiding judge.”

The case of Tengku Adnan, popularly know as Ku Nan, will be mentioned before Nazlan on July 24 for the fixing of trial dates.

So far, two prosecution witnesses have testified before Nazlan.

Deputy public prosecutors Manoj Kurup and Julia Ibrahim appeared for the prosecution while lawyer Tan Hock Chuan represented Tengku Adnan.

On Sept 20 last year, Nazlan dismissed Tengku Adnan’s attempt to recuse him, saying the former minister had failed to show that he would be biased.

This came three days after he convicted and sentenced Eng Boon, who pleaded guilty to abetting.

Eng Boon was fined RM1.5 million for abetting in a RM1 million bribe to Tengku Adnan over land deals involving Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

Eng Boon pleaded guilty to an amended charge under Section 165 of the Penal Code which carries a two-year jail term, a fine or both upon conviction.

Eng Boon, the director of a property and development company, was accused of giving Tengku Adnan 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 the Putrajaya MP.

Tengku Adnan, meanwhile, was charged with receiving the RM1 million payment from Eng Boon 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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