Friday, February 5, 2016

Successful prosecution of Gerald Fernandez & Fr Joachim Kang suggests that Singapore's prosecution of Yak Yew Chee & 1 MDB theft is not credible

by Ganesh Sahathevan

As previously reported. such is the weight of evidence in the public domain, that the Singapore Government can no longer pretend that Najib Razak is not a person of interest in the 1 MDB affair. Singapore cannot say it does not know where some US$530 million of 1 MDB money went to.

Then, this morning ,in the matter of Yak Yew Chee the Singaporeans put on a performance which suggests that they will not mind playing the clown in order to further what they think is a sophisticated game of realpolitik. Unfortunately for the Singaporeans, it is their own history in such matters that is held against them.This story is best told by the following reports from the state owned and controlled Straits Times .An excerpt from a book by the former Attorney General Of Singapore is provided to fill in the gaps.

Straits Times Singapore has reported:

In a surprise turn of events, private banker Yak Yew Chee filed an application on Friday (Feb 5) to withdraw his request to the Singapore High Court to release some of about S$9.71 million in his bank accounts frozen by authorities here as part of investigations related to Malaysia state investor 1MDB.

Mr Yak had earlier applied to release the funds held in 12 bank accounts with DBS, CIMB, OCBC and Bank of China, to pay taxes and legal fees as well as for basic expenses.

However at the High Court on Friday morning, his lawyer, Roderick Martin of Martin & Partners, said that his client has sufficient funds in his foreign bank accounts to pay for his taxes and legal fees.

Mr Martin asked the Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng for assurance that the funds, amounting to around S$1.75 million in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), would not be seized if his client were to remit it back to Singapore for the payments.

DPP Tan said Mr Yak should have asked this before making the application, and save everyone's time.

The court documents filed by the DPP objecting to Mr Yak's earlier application, released on Friday morning, said that the banker had failed to disclose material facts relating to his available finances:

- After Mr Yak was put on unpaid leave in May 2015 while investigations were being conducted by his employer, BSI Bank, and prior to 12 of his accounts being seized in September 2015, he transferred a "staggering S$5.7 million to his foreign bank accounts".

- From October 2015 onwards, he had also arranged for his salary of some S$82,500 per month to be paid by way of cheques, and has been able to deposit his salary - more than S$330,000 - into accounts with Julius Baer and ICBC

- By Mr Yak's own evidence, he earned more than S$27 million in salary and bonuses over the past 4 years, with S$8 million due to him. On the other hand, the CAD has only frozen bank accounts with funds amounting to approximately S$9.71 million, "leaving a staggering S$9 million unaccounted for".

Straits Times had earlier reported that Yak would be charged today, but he was not. That the DPP had no knowledge of Yak's overseas accounts ,and that he would let Yak go without any consequences despite he having "failed to to disclose material facts relating to his available finances" raises questions about the Singapore Government's prosecution of this matter and the 1 MDB theft.The Government has its own successful record of prosecution of such matters to contend with should it find this accusation offensive. This record is well demonstrated by example of the cases against Gerald Fernandez and Fr Joachim Kang.As these reports show, the Government of Singapore is very thorough in its investigations, and has been known to initiate investigations even when the victims of the crimes in question are not aware of the injury:

The matter of Gerald Fernnandez,as related by former Attorney General Of Singapore.Francis Seow:

Shortly before I was due to leave the service, a Geoffrey Fernandez, the secretary and legal adviser to the Malaysian Singapore Airlines (MSA), a two-nation air carrier, whose head office and main operating station were based in Singapore, was brought back to Singapore, after lengthy extradition proceedings in England, charged with the offence of criminal breach of trust of a paltry sum of $5,000. His more heinous offence, which was carefully muted, was that he had translated national airline company politics into a dangerous game of international politics by pitting the two governments against one another. Banking heavily on his presumed friendship with Tungku Abdul Rahman Putra al-Haj, the prime minister of Malaysia, Malaysian cabinet ministers, and other high Malaysian dignitaries, he had waged an indiscreet campaign of malignity against the prime minister himself and impugned the integrity of his bosom friend, the MSA’s chairman and now Chief Justice of Singapore, Yong Pung How. J.B. Jeyaretnam, now in private law practice, was retained as his legal counsel and saw me regarding bail for his client. My immediate reaction was that it was an impudent request. For, when he was released in Malaysia on a personal cognisance as a member of the Malaysian bar, he had jumped bail, skipped out of the country using his brother’s passport to boot, and fled to Ireland. While on an illadvised sojourn to England, he was arrested. The offence was ordinarily bailable, but, for the antecedents and the prime minister’s personal interest in the matter, it would take more than a manful judge to grant him bail. In all the circumstances, it was difficult to accede to such a request for bail unless there were compelling grounds.I perused the investigation papers, and noted that the case against him was not as strong as I had thought. It turned on a single witness whose evidence, if successfully impugned, would leave the prosecution without a leg to stand on.

He was jailed for 21 months and fined S$5,000 for corruptly receiving S$5,000 in order to show favour to insurance brokers Edward Lumley in connection with MSA affairs.

The matter of Fr Joachim Kang,best told in these three reports by The Straits Times

Priest loses bid to have frozen funds released.
By Elena Chong.
612 words
20 March 2004
Straits Times
(c) 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Catholic cleric accused of breach of trust wanted to use Malaysian bank account to fund defence

CATHOLIC priest Joachim Kang Hock Chai got a firm 'no' from the High Court yesterday when he asked for permission to take some funds from his Malaysian bank account to pay his legal costs and other expenses.

Kang, 55, through his team of lawyers, wanted to vary the undertaking he made last year not to dispose of his Malaysian assets, including shares and a Maybank account in Penang, when he was released on $1.2 million bail.

Kang, whose criminal breach of trust trial begins on Tuesday, said in his affidavit that he had borrowed money from his siblings to pay for his lawyers.

He had engaged a Queen's Counsel, whom he had paid £30,000 (S$93,000). However, he dropped the QC as he had exhausted his funds in England and couldn't find a buyer for a flat in London he owns. His bail money was raised by Catholic well-wishers.

Kang said he needed more money to finance his defence.

He had appealed to Archbishop Nicholas Chia for financial help to pay the legal and other expenses, but his request was turned down.

His lawyers, who estimated he needed about $500,000 for his defence, also failed to persuade the Attorney-General's Chambers last month to vary the undertaking.

The assets seized in Singapore and frozen in Malaysia are worth about $6.25 million. As his Maybank account in Penang has RM529,010 ($235,000), he wanted to change the terms so he could take out some money from the account to pay his legal costs.

Kang is accused of misappropriating $5.1 million in church funds over an eight-year period when he was parish priest of the Church of St Teresa. He is said to have made 19 fund transfers.

Yesterday, Mr N. Sreenivasan, together with Mr Peter Low and Mr Mark Goh, urged the court to grant the application, arguing that his client had reported faithfully every week to the Commercial Affairs Department for the past 11 months.

The variation, he said, formed a very small portion for a very specific purpose.

Objecting, Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala said Kang had failed to show that the funds in Maybank Penang were not linked to two transfers from the Church of St Teresa bank account.

He said Kang's mere assertion that the assets were more than the total amount of $5.1 million involved in the charges was not good enough grounds for him to ask for the order to be varied.

What Kang has to prove is that the amount in the Malaysian bank account is not connected to the two transfers, he added.

Justice Lai Kew Chai said once a solemn undertaking has been given in a court of law, an applicant cannot be allowed to change it to use the money, especially when he had his own flat in Britain.

'In my judgment, his Penang Maybank account amounting to RM529,000 belongs to the Catholic Church, and I am not prepared as a court of law to assist him to make use of the church's money to defend himself,' he said.

He added that Kang had not tendered any bank statements from his British accounts to prove that all his funds had been depleted as he claimed.

All this compelled him to conclude that Kang had his own assets which he could use to advance his own defence.

Dismissing the application, the judge said he had to 'presume the worst'.

SPH AsiaOne Ltd.

Document STIMES0020040319e03k0000i

Father Kang described as a 'blazingly honest' witness
709 words
13 October 1989
Straits Times
(c) 1989 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

PM's libel suit against FEER - Day 13 --------------------------------------

QC ROBERTSON yesterday staunchly defended Father Joachim Kang's credibility as the only witness for the Review.

Describing the priest as "blazingly honest", he told the court that Father Kang's testimony showed that he had not rehearsed his testimony to the court.

The priest, to whom the first passage in the article complained of had been attributed, could well have memorised the words in that passage and come to court to "rattle off the words attributed to him".

"He did not do that. He gave honest opinion of what he can remember two year s after what he said at the meeting," said the QC.

Mr Robertson was taking the court through the evidence adduced during the trial to show that the first passage in the allegedly libellous article represented, in so far as it could be interpreted as a comment, a fair comment made by Father Kang on a matter of public interest.

The passage had former priest Edgar D'Souza quoting an unnamed priest as saying that it was hard not to believe that the Government had not attacked the Church and that its real targets were four priests and not the 16 ISA detainees.

These remarks were alleged to have been made on June 3, 1987, at a meeting o f priests one day after Mr Lee met a Catholic delegation at the Istana.

Mr Robertson said that, contrary to what Mr Lee claimed, the passage did not

quote the exact words of Father Kang but had merely paraphrased him.

So the words used were not necessarily those of Father Kang, and if the priest had gone on to the witness stand and claimed that the words were exactly his, then Mr Justice Thean would have reason to doubt Father Kang's honesty.

The QC maintained, however, that the words used in the passage came close an d were equivalent to those provided by Father Kang's testimony.

In particular, he noted that Father Kang did not use the word "attack" - a key word in the passage - in court, although the word "target" was mentioned.

But he asked: "What is a target for but to be shot at and attacked?"

Noting that Father Kang's evidence was not shaken under cross-examination by Mr Previte, he said: "In summary ... Father Kang emerged as a blazingly honest witness ... It was not really challenged."

Mr Robertson told the court that Father Kang recognised that he was being quoted in the article when he read it in December 1987 - six months after he made his comments, not two years later at the trial.

He maintained that the defence of fair comment did not require that the opinion must be accurate, only that it was based on true facts.

And the facts known to Father Kang and set out in the Review article atteste d to the fair-mindedness of the priest's opinion, he said.

Mr Robertson then turned to the question of confidentiality of the June 3 meeting, a point raised by Mr Previte in his cross-examination of Father Kang.

He reminded the court that Father Kang had said that the Archbishop had not enjoined any oath of secrecy of those present at the meeting and that confidentiality in this case was not a requirement in law.

He added that some of the four priests who were invited to hear what Mr Lee had said about them the day before had taken down notes at the meeting, and so the other priests should be allowed to tell their lawyers or other people about the meeting.

Claiming that Father Kang had no political motives and no connection with th e Catholic groups in which the 16 detainees were involved, he said the priest had repeatedly said in his testimony that, during and after the meeting, his main concern was the fate of the four priests and the Church.

This, the QC said, was the "first ushering in" and the nub and essence of th e comment reported in the first passage of the Review article complained of.

Father Kang, he added, had also affirmed that his opinion was honestly held.

SPH AsiaOne Ltd.

Priest pleads guilty.
By Chong Chee Kin.
649 words
15 April 2004
Straits Times
(c) 2004 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Kang admits to transferring $5.1 million in church money for his own benefit and offers to pay back all the money taken

AN HOUR before the hearing began, Court No. 7 was packed to capacity.

About 50 mostly middle-aged men and women sat quietly in the court, unlike in the earlier days of the trial when some of Joachim Kang's former parishioners would sing hymns before the court was in session.

In the crowd were the familiar faces of court junkies who zero in on high-profile cases such as the Slim 10 lawsuit and the trial of TV presenter Shankar Aiyar for molesting a woman.

At 10am yesterday, on the 16th day of Kang's embezzlement trial, the Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal breach of trust (CBT).

Kang, 55, the former parish priest of the Church of St Teresa, admitted being responsible for transferring $5.1 million from its funds to his personal bank account and using the money for his own benefit.

In a voice barely audible above the hum of the air-conditioner, he responded 'guilty' six times when district judge Jasvender Kaur asked how he pleaded to the charges.

With his head bowed and hands clasped in front of him, he also agreed that 13 other charges of CBT be taken into consideration in his sentencing.

As expected, the amended charges to which he pleaded guilty yesterday were less severe than those he faced initially. Each amended charge carries a maximum jail term of three years, whereas the maximum penalty for each of the original 19 charges was 10 years' jail.

Kang, now the parish priest of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Tampines, has offered to pay back all the money he misappropriated from the church and from former St Teresa's parishioner Emily Chan.

Ms Chan, 73, a retiree who used to be director of an investment company, had donated a total of $2.55 million to the Church of St Teresa over a period of five years.

If the Catholic Church takes disciplinary action against Kang, it is likely to be only after he serves his sentence.

In court yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Daniel Koh said that Kang's defence team had made 'last-minute representations for the reduction of the charges'.

'After much plea bargaining, the Attorney-General's Chambers has agreed to reduce the charges,' he said, adding that the essence of the charges remained the same.

Revealing details of the Commercial Affairs Department's investigation, the DPP said Kang opened a personal savings account with a deposit of just under $25,000 in November 1989, around the time he was posted to the Church of St Teresa. By May last year, the balance had ballooned to $1.3 million.

In May 1994, he issued a cheque for $60,000 from the church's bank account to fruit hawker Chua Siang Hoe as partial payment for the purchase of his flat in Bishan. Kang and Mary, one of his six sisters, were the registered owners of the $395,000 flat.

Between September 1998 and September 2000, he made out four more cheques from the church account to his own, for sums totalling $2.4 million. 'These transfers... were done for his own benefit and not intended to benefit the Church of St Teresa or the Archdiocese of Singapore,' said the DPP.

Kang later used the money to buy two apartments in Teresa Ville and Fifth Avenue and four properties in Penang, Malaysia, and also invested in unit trusts.

After admitting his guilt yesterday, he was seen outside the courtroom speaking in hushed tones to Monsignor Eugene Vaz, vicar-general and next in the hierarchy after Archbishop Nicholas Chia, and Father Patrick Goh.

The court is due to hear Kang's mitigation plea next Monday.

SPH AsiaOne Ltd.

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