It's round two for Guan Eng
Back in the dock
Lim Guan Eng’s tour of Malaysia’s courts of law continued on Monday. But this time, in Butterworth, there wasn’t merely a hint of a bribe being solicited, but a big fat accusation that a massive amount of dirty money – RM3.3 million, to be exact – was received by the former finance minister in relation to that darn undersea tunnel project.
The offence, so the charge sheet reads, was committed between January 2011 and August 2017, during Guan Eng’s tenure as Penang chief minister, with cash received from one Zarul Ahmad Mohd Zulkifli to help the dude’s company secure a contract to build coupla main roads as part of the project.
Yep, the legalese of Monday’s charge – framed under Section 23(1) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 this time – may be slightly different from Friday’s one. But the bottom line is the potential punishment of 20 years in the slammer and ginormous fines are the same.
Now, whether or not dough actually changed hands is something the prosecution will eventually have to prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, two things to take note of from Monday’s charge are Guan Eng’s not guilty plea as well as the man’s assertion that he doesn’t have the RM3.3 million in his possession – not at home under his mattress, and certainly not in any of his bank accounts!
Corruption trials involving the exchange of cash, you’ll remember from disgraced ex-PM Najib Razak’s cases, usually involve the mapping out of money trails. But if there’s no actual money to be found, how indeed is that gonna be done?!
In any event, the former finance minister’s tour ain’t done yet, and today, he heads back to Butterworth to face a still-unspecified charge.
As we highlighted in yesterday’s newsletter, the MACC’s given zero indication as to what Guan Eng’s gonna be faced with today. However, the fact that the DAP sec-gen’s wife, Betty Chew, and businesswoman Phang Li Koon are also set to appear before the court too, the signs suggest that it may well be about Guan Eng’s house in Jalan Pinhorn, Penang.
This guide should clue you in on everything you need to know about LGE’s bungalow. However, the TL;DR version, assuming you don’t have the time, is that Guan Eng was originally accused of purchasing a house from Phang at below market value in exchange for the sale of some state government land (also at below market price) to her company. The cases against the DAP man and Phang were dropped in 2018, with the duo granted full acquittals. However, Phang’s arrest by the MACC last week hints that Malaysians could be seeing another round of bungalow-related charges.
We’ve already talked a wee bit about double jeopardy in BTL over the past couple of editions, so we won’t bore you with yet another explanation of the legal doctrine. Nevertheless, what we will do is point you to this article by one of the country’s preeminent legal minds, and say that while it is true the Federal Constitution protects people from being tried again for the same offence, there’re a number of situations when folks can find themselves in the law’s crosshairs again.
In a nutshell, the exceptions to the rule exist – not just here in Malaysia, but in many countries around the world – to make sure that real bad guys don’t fall through the cracks. However, to protect from people being caught and tried over and over again, both the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code appear to make it very clear that folks can only be brought to court again in relation to the same facts IF the new offence(s) is/are distinctly different from the original one(s).
But what exactly is distinctly different? Well, think of it like this – receiving a bribe and laundering money may both be crimes, however, the ingredients related to the offences are dissimilar. In bribery, cash is given and received, while in money laundering, cash is channelled into assets and other stuff in order to “clean” it.
Incidentally, Guan Eng’s missus, Betty, is set to face a charge of money laundering today, so who knows? A similar kinda charge could be framed against her hubby too.
Riot over Riza
Speaking of how some legal cases never appear to die, film producer Riza Aziz’s money laundering trial got resurrected in the Dewan Rakyat for discussion yesterday, and as expected, a right riot ensued.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, Riza, the stepson of our dear Jibby Razak, was originally charged in July 2019 with five counts of money laundering involving a total of US$248 million (RM1.03 billion) of 1Malaysia Development Berhad cash. The case, by all accounts, looked pretty serious, with millions of ringgit in potential fines as well as prison time on the cards. However, in May this year, some two months after Perikatan Nasional took Putrajaya and a new attorney-general was appointed, the dude was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on condition that he returns a portion of money siphoned.
There’s been a lot of back and forth about how Riza actually managed to get off scot-free, but the main point to note is the prosecution claims A-G Idrus Harun’s decision to drop the charges was based on advice received that his predecessor, Tommy Thomas, had agreed to a settlement “in principle”. Tommy T, though, has consistently maintained that no agreement on a deal being cut was ever made.
So why the commotion in Parliament? Simple. Perikatan, or more specifically, de facto Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan, had sought once more to pin the blame for Riza’s acquittal on TT. Predictably though, the Opposition was having none of it.
According to Takoyaki, the facts are pretty clear: a letter of representation (legal jargon for a deal proposal) had been sent by Riza’s peeps to the A-G’s Chambers back in November 2019, and a day after receiving the said dispatch, then-A-G Tommy T had made a handwritten note to the case’s lead prosecutor (presumably, lawyer Gopal Sri Ram) in red ink on top of the letter that he was “prepared to consider” the representation and was awaiting advice.
Here’s the issue though: can “prepared to consider” be taken to mean an agreement in principle?
Takoyaki and the Perikatan peeps think, yes. However, Opposition politicians, specifically Sepang MP Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, who loudly rebuffed the Law Minister in the Dewan, maintain that’s bull and it’s impossible to conclude an agreement from the words “prepared to consider”.
Who’s right and who’s wrong though is anyone’s guess. However, if you ask us, we think it’s a question of semantics, and this quibbling over words is pointless really, because the bottom line is the man who had the power to drop the charges – that’s A-G Idrus – did. And the result is that Leonardo DiCaprio’s former best friend – that’s Riza – is now sitting pretty.
By the way, Takiyuddin was on a bit of a roll yesterday in the Dewan, and decided to ruffle Opposition feathers with a few more contentious assertions on behalf of Perikatan. However, because we care for your sanity, we’ll save you from the unimportant deets and serve up just the bare bones here:
- First up, Taki said former Sabah CM Musa Aman may have had loads of corruption charges levelled against him. Nevertheless, as far as the current government and former A-G Gani Patail are concerned, the charges could never have stuck ’cos they were not just weak, but groundless too. Hence the decision to let Mighty Moses off the hook.
- In other news, our dear minister claimed ex-PM Mahathir Mohamad and Guan Eng apparently interfered in a case involving a tycoon linked to 1MDB. The businessman’s bank accounts had allegedly been frozen following investigations into his involvement in the scandal. However, thanks to Mads and Nobita, the accounts were
thawedunfrozen. Only time will tell though if we see legal action being taken against Guan Eng and indeed Mads over this.
- Finally, Taki said Perikatan will only consider studying anti-hopping laws if one, the Penang state gomen successfully deals with four reps who switched parties in the state and two, the Democratic Republic of Pulau Pinang manages to convince the courts that anti-frogging laws are not in contravention of Article 10 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of association.
While it’s still unclear if the strain of Covid-19 that’s infected more than 45 people in Kedah is of the super-spreader variety, what is certain is that cases have been piling on. And that’s due to infected people visiting friends and relations during the recent festivities and generally, not adhering to health protocols.
Like with the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations in May, the government had moved to greenlight home visits in the run-up to Aidiladha while capping gatherings to a max of 20 guests. Regrettably, while the record shows that sick and symptomatic individuals as well as those under home quarantine were expressly barred from receiving visitors and/or taking part in celebrations, it seems quite a few doofuses did.
Is anybody surprised, though?
Relaxing the rules was always gonna be a risk, and given what’s happened in places like Australia and Japan, what the authorities ought to have done was enforce extra protective measures. But they didn’t act. And now, we’re paying the price.
In any case, Malaysians should still count ourselves pretty damned lucky ‘cos despite a new wave of infections up north and in a couple of other localities, we’ve somehow managed to keep the fatality rate under control. Yes, the daily figures have seesawed a bit over the last couple of days. But deaths have been at 125 for over a week now.
Incidentally, while 11 new cases were added to the cumulative total on Monday, 19 recoveries spelt a lowering of the number of active cases to 166.
Here’re, anyways, are some of the other coronavirus odds and ends from yesterday:
- It’s not true that Malaysia isn’t testing enough, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says. In fact, our Covid-19 testing rate is on par with South Korea, a country generally regarded as having done an ace job in containing the pandemic. Here’s an interesting story from Nat Geo, by the way, on South Korea’s response to the disease.
- There’s no clinical proof that face shields work against Covid-19. Still, the Health Ministry says it’s better to wear one, than nothing at all. Oh, and cloth masks are okay too, however, those three-ply ones are best. But you knew that already, didn’t you?
- Even though the state governments of Kedah and Perlis recently authorised targeted enhanced movement control orders (TEMCOs), it seems that only Putrajaya has the power to sanction movement curbs. State governments also cannot alter existing recovery MCO terms, sayeth Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
- Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Harun instructed all MPs who’ve come into contact with positive Covid-19 cases, persons under surveillance or returned from areas currently under movement restriction to get themselves tested. Wait, what?!?! There’re MPs that’ve been exposed to Covid-19 that did not get themselves tested and worse, attended Parliament?!?! WTF?!?!
Flotsam and jetsam
As usual, a wee bit more made the news on Monday. Here’re the more important highlights:
- Bersatu’s Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Ahmad Kamal has come under heavy fire following a video in which he is seen to be offering support letters in exchange for votes in the party’s youth polls. Funnily though, not only has the dude been whacked by the Opposition, he’s been taken to task by the youth wing of Perikatan-aligned Umno as well!
- In other Bersatu news, more people have quit to join former chairman Dr Maddey’s still-unnamed party. Incidentally, while it’s unlikely to make a goddamn difference at this present mo, Bersatu is now considering axing the chairman’s post.
- Former foreign minister Anifah Aman may claim to be pally-wally with older half-bro Musa, but he thinks it’s time for the ex-Sabah chief minister to retire from politics. Oooh! That’s gotta hurt! Meanwhile, the former Kimanis MP notes that there’s no room for frogs in his political party – Parti Cinta Sabah. Psst, bro, just checking. Weren’t you a Sabah Umno member before?!?!
- The owner of a burger stall who was earlier being investigated following claims of police inaction concerning gambling dens in Sungai Buloh, now wants folks to stop lambasting the cops. The dude’s statement was made after Bukit Aman promised to probe whether police are in cahoots with gambling den towkays there.
- Ash and dust from the eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung are expected to enter the air spaces of Perak, Kedah, Perlis, Penang, Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. Fortunately, though, air quality is unlikely to be affected. The volcano, on the island of Sumatra, erupted on Monday morning.
“Money is truthful. If a man speaks of his honour, make him pay cash.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson -
IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS
- Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai has been arrested for allegedly colluding with foreign forces. Lai, who owns the Apple Daily newspaper, was nabbed under new security laws that’ve been imposed on the city-state by China.
- In other Hong Kong-related news, meanwhile, United States senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and a number of other lawmakers have been sanctioned by China for apparently “behaving badly” over issues affecting the city. Tensions between Beijing and Washington have escalated recently, with the US just last week sanctioning Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam and a few others for cracking down on political dissent.
- In a small but significant milestone to employment contracts, Indian food delivery company Zomato has greenlit 10 days of period leave a year for female employees. What’s cooler is the move will apply to transgender persons as well as women.
- The entire Lebanese government has quit following protests in response to last week’s catastrophic explosion that claimed the lives of about 200 people and injured some 6,000 more. Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who’s been in the job for just nine months, has blamed the disaster on endemic corruption.