28 Oct 2013

Dr Ling’s acquittal shows Putrajaya’s graft war farcical, say critics

Putrajaya's war against crime in high places appears to be a farce, judging from the way former cabinet minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik (pic) was charged, and later acquitted, say a former attorney general and a veteran lawyer.

Both Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman and Karpal Singh felt that Dr Ling should not have been charged in the first place and that the four-year court battle which followed was simply a charade by Putrajaya to portray it was serious in getting a "big fish".

They questioned why ex-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's statement was not recorded before Dr Ling was charged with allegedly cheating the Cabinet over the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) land project in 2010.

"If Dr Mahathir's statement was recorded earlier, then the Attorney General would have had to think twice whether to frame charges against Dr Ling," Abu Talib told The Malaysian Insider.

Police only recorded two statements from Dr Ling's former boss in 2011 and early last year as the trial was progressing.

High Court judge Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi yesterday acquitted the 70-year-old former transport minister, saying it was Dr Mahathir's evidence alone which secured the acquittal.

Abu Talib pointed out that at the time Dr Ling was alleged to have committed the offence, Dr Mahathir was Cabinet chairman.

"It was the Cabinet that Dr Ling was alleged to have cheated. So it is natural that police record Dr Mahathir's statement to determine whether to frame the charge."

During the trial, Dr Mahathir was lined up as prosecution witness but was not called to testify.
He was later offered to the defence when the Dr Ling was asked to answer the charges.

"Why was Dr Mahathir's statement not recorded and his evidence considered?" asked Abu Talib, adding that the former prime minister's statement would have shown that Dr Ling had not cheated the Cabinet.

Abu Talib, who served as attorney general between 1980 and 1993, said during his time he would ensure the prosecution had 90% credible evidence before deciding to frame charges to avoid allegations of persecution.

Both Abu Talib and Karpal now want Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to explain as the public had the right to know.

Dr Mahathir had told the High Court in October last year that a police officer told him that Dr Ling would not have been prosecuted if his (Dr Mahathir's) statement had been recorded earlier.

"I remember one of the three officers saying that if I had made the remarks earlier, they would not have charged Dr Ling," he had told the court.

He identified one of the officers as Superintendant R. Rajagopal, the investigation officer of the case.

Dr Mahathir testified that he did not feel cheated by Dr Ling nor had other Cabinet members complained about the former transport minister.

Dr Ling had then made a representation to Gani to drop the charges but the appeal was rejected.
Karpal said Gani was, at best, negligent in failing to do the right thing in this case.

He said Gani ought to have ordered the investigation officer to record Dr Mahathir's statement so that evidence was credible and sustainable.

"Something is very strange here as the vital statement was not recorded much earlier," he noted.

"Dr Mahathir was the material witness to prove the charge and secure a conviction. Gani should take responsibility."

Karpal also questioned who was going to account for the colossal losses suffered by the government in the PKFZ project.

Dr Ling was alleged to have deceived the Cabinet by hiding the fact that there was an additional interest rate of 7.5% to the purchase price of RM25 per square foot in the deal, despite knowing that the interest rate was already included in the price.

He had then allegedly induced the Cabinet to approve the land purchase, which caused losses to the government.

Dr Ling also faced two alternative charges of deceiving the Cabinet that the terms of the purchase of the 999.5 acres of land, at RM25psf plus 7.5% interest, were acknowledged and agreed to by the Valuation and Property Services Department (JPPH) despite knowing that there was no such agreement.

Police started probing the PKFZ land deal in early 2009 after then Port Klang Authority chairman Datuk Lee Hwa Beng lodged a report following a financial audit of the project.

The PKFZ project, initially estimated at RM1.1 billion after it was mooted by Dr Ling in 1997, more than quadrupled in cost to RM4.6 billion by 2007. – October 26, 2013.

Source :  http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/dr-lings-acquittal-shows-putrajayas-graft-war-farcical-say-critics

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