Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Najib's and BN's commitment to anti-corruption question - looking back at Eric Chia and Kasitah Kadam's judgments

Our Prime Minister Najib and the BN government over the years have been trying to convince us that they are anti-corruption, and will act against corruption and other mal-practices. Alas, it is sad that only the 'small crooks' have been targetted - not the big crooks. 

Even, if the 'big boys' are arrested, charged and tried - the government still will do the needful to ensure that they are acquitted. Prosecution sometimes just fail to present a strong case - sometimes even by not calling important witnesses, that should have been called, and hence leaving judges no choice but to acquit. Remember, once a person is charged and acquitted, he/she cannot be charged again for the same offence.

We really need laws to ensure that we can take and charge persons vested with powers to court for their actions (inaction) that was deliberate or negligent that undermined the law and/or the good of the nations. Prime Ministers who signed agreements or did things detrimental to the law, rights and justice. We need the ability to be able to charge former PMs, Ministers, Director Generals, Auditor Generals, etc -- and they should never be given immunity by reason of the fact that these were done while they held a particular office. Prosecutors who failed to call important witnesses...who failed to present a proper case... so persons charged get acquitted by reason of their actions/omissions and/or gross negligence should also be liable to the people they serve.

Remember Eric Chia and Kasitah Kadam - both were acquitted because prosecution failed to call material witnesses.

The Eric Chia case...
In his 30-page oral judgment, he went on to fault the prosecution in every aspect of the case, from the way the main charge and alternative charge were proffered right to the tendering of documents, and its failure to call crucial witnesses.
Akhtar said the most glaring setback was the prosecution’s failure to call two material witnesses, who would have been able to confirm whether payment was needed for the technical assistance agreements (TAA) signed between Perwaja Rolling Mill Development and NKK Corporation.
He said former Perwaja company secretary R.R. Durai Rajasingam, who was involved in all Perwaja’s contracts, would have known the actual contents of the TAA.
“Yet the prosecution never called him. The question is why? I see nothing to say that he would be a hostile witness or give evidence against them.”
The judge also questioned the prosecution’s reluctance to call the five Japanese witnesses, including NKK Corporation, Japan, director N. Otani, who was present at the signing of the TAA in Japan in 1993.
“I wonder whether it was the Japanese witnesses who were reluctant or the prosecution was the one reluctant to bring them here,” he said.
Akhtar also said the prosecution’s contention that the TAA was free fell flat in its face when tendering its documents at the trial as they clearly stated that the agreements would be effective upon receiving first payment.
Another document by NKK Corporation not only requested for the payment to be in a lump sum but also stated the amount.
He said the prosecution failed to lead any evidence to show fabrication of that document, which it contended.- Star, 27/6/2007, Eric Chia acquitted of CBT
Now, see the similarities in the Kasitah Gaddam's case...

Former land and cooperative development minister Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam was acquitted and discharged by the High Court here of committing corrupt practice and cheating involving shares belonging to the Sabah Land Development Board (SLDB) in 1996.
Judge Justice Suraya Othman ruled that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case on both charges for the court to call Kasitah to enter his defence.
“The essential ingredients of both the offences of corrupt practice and cheating were not made out on the facts before the court. In the circumstances, the accused stands acquitted and discharged of both the charges against him,” Suraya said in her 74-page judgment.
Kasitah, 62, was the first Cabinet member to be charged with such crimes....
,,,,Kasitah had claimed trial to using his position as SLDB chairman for his financial gain by taking part in the decision to approve a proposal to sell 16.8 million shares held by the board in Sapi Plantations Sdn Bhd to Briskmark Enterprise Sdn Bhd, where he was promised 3.36 million shares in Sapi Plantations on Oct 22, 1996.
On the second charge, Kasitah was alleged to have cheated the SLDB board members by omitting to disclose the offer by PPB Oil Palms Sdn Bhd to allocate five shares of the company for each share of Sapi Plantations in the proposal by company for listing on the KLSE.
He thereby dishonestly induced them to approve the sale of 16.8 million shares held by SLDB in Sapi Plantations to Briskmark Enterprise whereas they would not have approved the sale if they had known about the offer by PPB Oil Palms.
Justice Suraya said the failure of the prosecution in not calling six board members who were present in the meeting was detrimental to the case as it had created a big gap over the question of whether the board members were actually cheated by the accused.
She also said that evidence by lawyer cum board member Catherine Yong was very damaging as she did not indicate that Kasitah had misused his position or influence her or other board members during the meeting.
Besides that, the judge said there was no element of inducement on the part of Kasitah to the board members.- Star, 13/8/2009, Kasitah freed of corruption charges
When you do not have sufficient evidence and necessary witnesses, you must never charge a person in court. And, if you fail to convict, then it is time for Malaysia a law that requires the government to pay COMPENSATION to accussed persons - to compensate their loss of liberty, their costs, etc... 

When it comes to material witnesses, it is normal practice to first record a statement by the witness usually under oath - so, even if there is a sudden change of testimony when he is called, that witness can be challenged with reference to the earlier statements  given. Such witnesses could also be charged in court...

Witness can be summoned through the issuance of subpoenas (court orders) and a failure to comply with the said order can give rise to contempt proceedings taken against such witnesses...

So, why was there a failure to call material witnesses? Was there some order...or some other intervening factor at play that wanted the said accused persons acquitted? Or was it just incompetence, negligence or inexperience on the part of the assigned prosecutors? All we can do is speculate...

See also earlier post:

Kasitah Gaddam & Eric Chia - Prosecution's failure to call witnesses - Was it just incompetence OR....?

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