KUALA LUMPUR: In a shocking turn of events, Glenn Knight, the former prosecutor of the Pan-Electric case that destroyed the political and corporate career of ex-MCA president Tan Koon Swan, said the latter was wrongly convicted and the Singapore courts and several high-ranking judges involved in the case had erred in sending him to jail.
Knight, in a book that was released recently, said it first dawned upon him in 1996 that Tan was wrongfully prosecuted after the conclusion of a criminal breach of trust (CBT) case that was presided by then Chief Justice of Singapore Yong Pung How.
In his conclusion on a CBT case that was similar to the Pan-Electric case, Yong said that Knight had charged the founder of Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd (MPHB) — the powerful investment arm of MCA in the 1980s — under the wrong section of the law.
Yong explained that it was wrong to conclude anyone had stolen money from the company if the wrong charge had been used to prosecute the person in the first place.
“The judgment meant that Koon Swan was wrongfully convicted and he was technically an innocent man. As he [Chief Justice Yong] was considered a good judge, everyone had to accept that Koon Swan had been wrongly convicted and I was forced to accept that I was wrong too.
I too had to accept that if I had erred, the judges involved in the Koon Swan case were also wrong. The judgment shattered my belief in our legal system,” Knight wrote in his book Glenn Knight The Prosecutor, which was released recently.
Tan was charged in December 1985 after the collapse of the Pan-Electric group which resulted in the stock exchanges at both ends of the Causeway to be suspended for three days. He was slapped with 15 charges, from share manipulation to CBT. The high-profile case saw a speedy conclusion only because Tan pleaded guilty to the charges.
Four distinguished judges heard the case in its various stages of appeal, including former chief justice of Singapore Wee Chong Jin. Tan was subsequently convicted and sentenced to two years in Changi Prison.
Tan has not decided if he will take action against the Singapore gover-nment.
Tan, when contacted by theedgemalaysia.com, said he had still not decided if he would take any action against the Singapore government following the latest revelation on the Pan-Electric case, which effectively ended his career as MCA president and a position in Corporate Malaysia. “I’m overseas now … I don’t know whether I will do anything about it. It’s very unlikely I will say anything so soon,” he said.
The revelation comes 27 years too late as Tan is now a retired businessman who helps his children to run a property development company. He spends most of his time in Hainan, China, these days where the company has several projects.
After serving his jail term in 1986, Tan, who is married to banker Penny Chang, stayed out of public eye. Before his conviction, he could easily count himself as one of the country’s most influential businessmen and political leaders.
Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik took over the MCA presidency from Tan. It was during Ling’s tenure as president that MPHB, with its vast assets, was disposed to Datuk Lim Thian Kiat.
In his book, Knight said an error in judgment would have been set aside in jurisdictions such as the UK. “But in Singapore, the jurisprudence does not allow for this, although technically Koon Swan could still be pardoned,” he wrote.
On suggestions that he seek a “pardon” from the Singapore president to clear his criminal record, Tan declined to commit to any action. “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 68-year-old Knight was the first director of the Commercial Affairs Department of Singapore. Due to its successful prosecution of the Pan-Electric and other cases, Knight was awarded the Public Administration Gold Medal by the Singapore government in 1988.
His illustrious career came to an abrupt end when he himself was convicted in 1991 for using the wrong invoice to purchase a car — an offence under the Corruption Prevention Act. In 1998, he was again tried and convicted for misappropriating money while in office.
Knight was only reinstated as a lawyer in 2007, making him one of only six lawyers to be reinstated into the Law Society of Singapore in its 35-year history.
Knight stated in his book that it was extremely painful for him to discover that the Singapore courts had got it so wrong and dawned upon him that he should apologise to Tan for having him wrongfully convicted.
The former deputy public prosecutor met Tan at a conference in Singapore in 2010 and related to him the conclusion made by Yong in the 1996 CBT case. The news was received with great excitement.
Knight wrote in his book that Tan’s case had a profound effect on him and only time would tell if he had indeed erred so badly in the case.
This article is appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on 11 September, 2012.