KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 10): Businessman Tan Koon Swan, the president of the MCA in the early 1980s and founder of Multi-Purpose Holdings, told theedgemalaysia.com he would not "say anything soon" on the mistake by the Singapore government in prosecuting him during the Pan-El crisis in the mid-1980s.
"I don't know whether I will do something. I am overseas now. I will probably return tomorrow and maybe I will meet the press then. But don't write anything that will put me in trouble. It's very unlikely I will say anything soon," Tan said from Hainan when contacted on his hand-phone.
In the just-published book Glenn Knight, The Prosecutor, the writer Glenn Knight — who was the famous prosecutor then — confesses to having wrongly prosecuted Tan in 1985 and in the chapter on the Pan El crisis, he mentions his apology to Tan Khoon Swan — a fact hitherto unknown for 27 years.
Glenn slapped Tan with 15 charges after the collapse of Pan-El Industries which caused the Singapore stock exchange to halt trading for three days. Among others, Tan was alleged to have committed criminal breach of trust (CBT) and share manipulation, and a guilty finding sent him to Singapore's Changi Prison for 18 months.
In his book, Glenn has suggested Tan to seek "pardon" from the Singapore President to wipe out his criminal record so that it would mean he had not been convicted of any wrong-doing legally in this case, which also rocked the Malaysia stock exchange.
In response to this, Tan declined to commit himself to any action. He said: "No, I am not going to say anything." He also declined to say whether he would sue the Singapore government for compensation for ruining his reputation and his future.
The incident not only forced Tan to quit as MCA president but also the collapse of his huge Malaysian-Singapore business empire which comprised at least three listed companies then.
And posting bail for Tan while waiting for the trial of the century was Robert Kuok, Malaysia's richest man. Due to this high profile prosecution, Glenn was awarded the Public Administration Gold Medal by the Singapore government. But in 1990, Glenn himself was charged for CBT and later jailed in Singapore.
The wrongful prosecution of Tan was splashed on the front pages of two leading Chinese newpapers — the Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew — on Monday.
Nanyang said Glenn told Tan about his mistake in prosecuting him apologised to Tan when they met at a function two years ago.
Quoting a unnamed aide of Tan, Nanyang also said Tan has been advised to be cautious in his comment.
In previous interviews with this writer, Tan did say that he felt "cheated" during the Pan-El crisis.
He said he was advised by "people in power" to admit guilt to get a light sentence which would amount to a fine, but he was horrified to hear the jail term when the verdict was read out in court.
But as a born-again Christian, he had tried to forgive all those who had caused hardship and agony to him.
Tan is now a property developer with a lot of developments in China. He has been made an "honorary citizen" of Hainan for his contributions there.