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Court sets February as joint trial on all accused

Teo clad in formal attire leaving the courtroom

31st January, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: The Special Corruption Court has ordered the case of former State Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Kong to be jointly tried with the case of his former boss, Awang Mohd Tahir Awang Mohd Talib, Tahir’s wife Fauziah Piut and retired deputy director, Lim Lam Beng.

Judge Abu Bakar Manat made the order on Teo, 53, when the case was mentioned for a decision on an application by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for a joint trial, yesterday.

The four accused will stand trial together on Feb 21-23. Abu Bakar allowed the application by the prosecution for a joint trial, on the grounds that the offences involving the accused and three others accused derived from same illegal activities as per charge sheets which are the investigations on corruption cases conducted by MACC involving the officers of the department.

Furthermore, the trial could be consolidated as the prosecution would be calling the same witnesses. Thus, the trial could be expedited as the prosecution could call the same witnesses during the joint trial.

On another issue, the court dismissed the prosecution’s application for forfeiture of seized properties namely the cash in Malaysian ringgit and various foreign currencies (FOP Cash) totalling more than RM7 million.

The application was made pursuant to Section 41 (1) of the MACC Act 2009 on July last year, before Teo was charged in court.

Under the law, any property seized under this Act where there is no prosecution or conviction for an offence under this Act, the Public Prosecutor may, before the expiration of 18 months from the date of seizure, apply to a Session Court judge for an order of forfeiture of that property if he is satisfied that such property had been obtained as a result of or in connection with an offence under this Act.

The court fixed yesterday for decision pending further instruction from the prosecution whether to proceed with the FOP cash in view of the criminal charges now filed against the accused on Dec 13, 2017.

Since the prosecution has not received any instruction regarding the application, therefore the court proceeded for ruling.

“Having considered the said application and having read the submissions by both parties, the application is dismissed,” Abu Bakar said.

The court then moved to another issue of an application by the defence counsel to recuse Abu Bakar as judge from hearing Teo’s case.

Teo’s counsel, Roland Cheng said it was pertinent to note that the said FOP Cash and six of the 146 criminal charges against the accused concern the same subject matter, thus, there is a reasonable suspicion that Abu Bakar may have already formed an opinion and embarrassed and/or prejudice by virtue of having read the documents and submission filed in the said FOP Cash.

Abu Bakar among others viewed that the allegation are without basis. He also said that the FOP Cash and the 146 charges are two separate applications.

However, if the counsels seriously and really wanted him to recuse or disqualify himself from hearing or conducting the trial, he suggested to the counsels to write to the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak (CJSS) Tan Sri Richard Malanjum for further direction.

On another issue, Roland also informed the court that, they had just filed an application to quash or set aside the 146 charges against Teo in the High Court yesterday.

Roland asked for postponement pending the High Court’s decision, but Abu Bakar said, “you may file any application in any court but the trial is still ongoing”.

The trial dates are maintained on Feb 21-23 and if there’s any change or rescheduled on trial date, all parties will be informed accordingly, said Abu Bakar.

Teo, had on Dec 13 last year, claimed trial to 146 counts of money laundering involving more than RM32 million. The first 78 charges against him were framed under Section 4 (1) (a) of the Anti-Money Laundering & Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 which liable to a fine not exceeding RM5 million or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to both, upon conviction.

The charge stated that Teo was accused of possessing lands obtained from illegal activities through 78 transactions of transferring ownership worth RM12,705,203.70. The alleged offence took place between 2005 and 2016 at several land and district offices including the state Land and Survey Department in Wisma Tanah dan Ukur.

The remaining 68 charges against Teo stated that he allegedly committed six offences of having cash totalling RM7,930,810.48 (RM5,952,050 in Ringgit Malaysia and RM1,978,760.48 in estimated foreign currencies) from illegal activities and 62 offences of having money in a bank accounts totalling RM12,287,240.07 from illegal activities in eight financial institutions here and in Kuala Lumpur.

The offence allegedly took place between Oct 2016 and December 2016, at various bank branches in the city and places among others Pejabat Jurutera Air Bahagian Kota Kinabalu and Jabatan Organisasi dan Kaedah Menara PNB in Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur.

Each charges framed under Section 4 (1) (b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 carries a jail term of up to 15 years and liability of a fine of not less than five times the sum, or value of the proceeds of an unlawful activity, or instrumentalities of an offence at the time the offence was committed, or five million ringgit, whichever is the higher, on conviction.

Teo was released on RM1.5 million bail with RM500,000 deposited with two local sureties, pending disposal of his case.

Meanwhile on Dec 29, 2016, Ag Mohd Tahir, 55, his wife Fauziah, 52, and Lim, 63, were charged with 37 counts of money-laundering involving RM61.5 million and claimed trial to the charges.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tengku Amir Zaki Tengku Abd Rahman and Mohd Farez Rahman appeared for MACC. Roland together with counsels Ram Singh and Nelson Angang represented Teo. – ECA

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