Lawyers question ‘99% conviction’ remark by DPP in Guan Eng’s case

Lim Guan Eng was earlier today charged with misappropriating RM208.7 million worth of state land linked to the undersea tunnel project.

GEORGE TOWN: Several lawyers have questioned remarks made by a prosecutor in Lim Guan Eng’s latest charge today of criminal misappropriation of RM208.7 million worth of Penang state land involving two companies.

They said the remarks were uncalled for.

Earlier today, deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said Lim’s case today was the “mother of all cases” compared with the other charges he was facing. He said prosecutions were carried out in cases where there was a “99%” chance of conviction.

Lawyer V Parthipan said it was unprecedented for a prosecutor to make such a statement when judges would be the ones deciding if a case would result in a conviction.

“If you have strong evidence, best to proceed with your evidence and arguments in court. Giving statements such as a ‘99% success rate’ are not necessary.

“It is as if we are pressuring the judge to convict the accused because you have a good case. Also, in the event that the DPP fails in convicting the accused, it would look bad on them,” he told FMT.

Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin (in maroon-striped tie) outside the Butterworth courthouse in Penang today.

Lawyer Siti Zabedah Kasim said a DPP should seek to protect the innocent and convict the guilty, and respect the legal rights of all, including the accused.

“I hope in his zeal to prosecute, he does not fail to appreciate his obligations. I hope he is not driven by the impulse to punish the accused.

“There is no greater threat to the criminal justice system than that posed by an unethical prosecutor.

“A prosecutor is not only not bound to pursue a conviction at all cost, he is prohibited by the rules of ethics from intentionally undercutting the rights of the accused. The prosecutor is also obligated to do right by the accused,” she said.

Another lawyer, who did not want to be named, said the DPP’s statement was “highly irregular”, as most shied away from media attention to prevent “a trial by media” situation.

“This also begs the question whether the learned attorney-general Idrus Harun sanctioned such a statement.

“Statements to the media, if any, should be to provide accurate facts for the consumption of public knowledge. Not for the airing of opinions and gut feelings of the prosecutor.

“The prosecutor’s opinion means nothing as his only job is to prosecute based on the available evidence obtained from the investigation,” he said.

Lim’s lead defence counsel Gobind Singh Deo said it was strange to see the very same prosecutors making comments on the case when they themselves had asked the court for a gag order before. No gag order has been issued by the courts so far.

He said he would refer the matter to the court to deal with a potential subjudice situation as a result of the remarks.

“Don’t be delusional. If you only prefer charges in cases where you are 99% sure of convictions, then why don’t you see 99% convictions in all criminal prosecutions?

“This is because in many cases, the evidence produced just isn’t enough to secure a conviction.

“We the defence are of the view that the prosecution has no case against Lim.

“We are of the view that what he (DPP) has done is clearly subjudice. So bring it on. Let this be the ‘mother of all charges’ then. Let’s see what happens,” he said in a post on Facebook.

Outside the Butterworth courthouse this morning, Wan Shaharuddin was asked by reporters about the difference between today’s criminal charges against Lim and three others in the past month.

To this, he replied: “What I can say is that today’s charges are the mother of all charges. When I say all charges, the two charges today.

Asked about the prosecution’s chances in the case, Wan Shaharuddin said the policy of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission was that “we only prosecute cases where we have 99% chances of obtaining a conviction”, while (the remaining) 1% was left to an “act of God”.

“We can’t say we have 100% chances of victory, but 99% we will prosecute, where we have a chance of winning,” he said.

FMT has reached out to Wan Shaharuddin through the AGC’s corporate communications division and is awaiting his response to comments by the lawyers.