SINGAPORE - The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) yesterday disputed claims by former deputy public prosecutor Glenn Knight that ex-Malaysian Chinese Association leader Tan Koon Swan was wrongly convicted in 1986.
In its statement the AG Chambers said Mr Knight had made some errors in relation to the case in his new book, The Prosecutor. In it, Mr Knight, 67, had argued that the ex-Malaysian cabinet minister and tycoon was "technically an innocent man".
Mr Tan, 71, was then well-known for this achievements in the corporate world and was a high-profile political leader in Malaysia in 1985 when he pleaded guilty to manipulating the shares of Singapore-based Pan-Electric Industries.
Arguing for Mr Tan's innocence, Mr Knight had pointed to a ruling in a subsequent case in 1996 involving the same section of the Act, and which was decided by then Chief Justice Yong Pung How, in his capacity as a High Court judge.
In that case, a man was acquitted because CJ Yong had ruled that the section in the Act was meant for civil, not criminal, cases, said Mr Knight.
If the judge's views were applied to Mr Tan's case, he might have got a different outcome, wrote Mr Knight.
But the AGC pointed out in its statement that CJ Yong had noted in his judgment that there had been no arguments about the correctness of the charge against Mr Tan when it was made.
The AGC said CJ Yong "did not go into any detailed discussion of Mr Tan Koon Swan's case or Mr Knight's conduct of the case. Specifically, CJ Yong did not express any opinion that Mr Tan was wrongly charged".
The AGC also stated that although CJ Yong might have disagreed with the view of the law in Mr Tan's case, his decision "could not and did not overrule" the decision in Mr Tan's case, as both cases had already been decided by the High Court, said The Straits Times.
"Differences in the courts' pronouncements on the law occur, especially in legal systems based on the common law," said the AGC. It added that the public prosecutor had decided to charge Mr Tan based on the evidence against him and the law. Mr Tan's lawyers had not taken issue with the charge or his conviction based on the law and facts.
Said the AGC: "Mr Tan Koon Swan was convicted on the basis of his own plea of guilt, based on the law and facts as was accepted by his own counsel."
There were 14 other charges not proceeded with against Mr Tan, who had already pleaded guilty to criminal breach of trust.
The AGC added: "It was said that the judgment in Cheam Tat Pang meant that Mr Tan Koon Swan had been wrongly convicted and that he was technically an innocent man. Mr Tan Koon Swan’s conviction stands, and he
remains guilty of the crime that he had admitted to."
The AGC also highlighted another error made by Mr Knight in his book. He had said "the sentence imposed as including a fine of $1 million". The correct fine was $500,000, said the AGC.
When contacted by The Straits Times last night, Mr Knight said as there were two differing High Court judgments on the same issue, the matter should have been referred to the Court of Appeal for a clarification.
"At the end of the day, after CJ Yong's judgment in 1996, nobody has been charged since then under that particular section, to my knowledge."