CPIB didn't do enough to get witnesses

SINGAPORE - A defence lawyer has accused a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer of not putting enough effort to trace two Lebanese witnesses.

Defence counsel Hamidul Haq also alleged that the CPIB officer, Mr Jeffrey Tan, called them at a time when it was unlikely they would pick up the calls.

Mr Haq said that this lack of real effort is why the Lebanese football officials were not able to testify in the match-fixing trial of businessman Eric Ding Si Yang on Tuesday.

Ding, 31, is on trial for allegedly bribing three Lebanese football officials.

Wednesday was the second day of an ancillary hearing, held to determine if the four written statements of the two absent officials Abdallah Taleb, 37, and Ali Eid, 33, could be admitted as court evidence. Mr Haq had earlier cross-examined Mr Tan, who revealed that he tried to call Mr Eid thrice, and Mr Taleb four times, over the first two days of July.

Invalid e-mail address

Mr Tan said he also tried to e-mail Mr Taleb on Tuesday, but the e-mail address was invalid.

These efforts were recorded in his diary.

Mr Haq called the recording in the diary a "special request" that came from Deputy Public Prosecutor Asoka Markandu.

This was so the diary could be used to "support the reliance for an application to introduce (the) statements, knowing that these witnesses are not likely to come back", the defence counsel said.

Mr Tan disagreed. He said the two officials' lawyer, Mr Gary Loh, had said they were willing to come back.

The calls were also made at an "unearthly hour", Mr Haq said.

Mr Tan had tried to contact the duo at 3.30am (Lebanon time).

"Even if people are deep in their sleep, they are expected to respond to this call, Mr Tan?" Mr Haq asked.

Mr Tan's reply - that someone did pick up on Mr Taleb's end - prompted Mr Haq to ask: "Is that the CPIB method, to wake people up with a call at 3am?"

During those calls, no interpreters were present even though Mr Taleb and Mr Eid could not speak English, Mr Haq pointed out.

"So you were going to speak Arabic to them?" he asked.

Mr Tan then explained that the men, who refereed international matches, could speak simple English.

During his closing submissions for the ancillary hearing, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Alan Loh said that the statements should be admitted as evidence as notice had been served on Aug 22 to the defence to admit them.

There is also no risk of evidence being manufactured as there was no reason for Mr Taleb and Mr Eid to lie, he said. DPP Loh added that the statements will corroborate the evidence given by other witnesses in court.

In response, Ding's other lawyer, Mr Thong Chee Kun, said he was not sure if Mr Tan "has actually made any real effort to secure the attendance".

Mr Thong said he "cannot see the value" of the reliability of the statements. Ding's lawyers were expected to tender their written submissions on Thursday, before the judge comes to a decision on the Lebanese officials' statements.

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