PUTRAJAYA — A High Court judge was recused from hearing the corruption trial of former Federal Territories minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as there is a danger that he could be biased, the Court of Appeal held.
In a 14-page written judgement dated May 15, Justice Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang said High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali might be biased despite his declaration that he would not be prejudiced against Tengku Adnan after presiding over the case of a businessman, Datuk Tan Eng Boon.
“We are of the considered view that the danger he (the judge) might be so is there and is real. This is because how could he, or any presiding judge for that matter, having not just looked at but also considered the facts of the case as well as the documentary exhibits tendered in support of the plea of Tan that he offered the bribe to the appellant (Tengku Adnan) which was accepted, be able to completely obliterate this crucial fact from his mind,” said Justice Rhodzariah.
She, however said the court was not in anyway questioning the integrity of Justice Mohd Nazlan or his ability to decide Tengku Adnan’s case in accordance with the evidence adduced before him.
Justice Rhodzariah said the court was also equally mindful that such evidence adduced by both sides would be subject to cross-examination and would be given a maximum evaluation by the High Court judge.
She said the danger was that the judge had accepted Tan’s plea of guilty which to the court’s view cannot be effaced.
“In other words, such a possibility of bias could not be ruled out, even though the probability could,” she said.
Reiterating the words of former Federal Court judge Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamed in the 2006 case of Datuk Tan Heng Chew vs Tan Kim Hor, Justice Rhodzariah said Tengku Adnan’s appeal was allowed in order to maintain the highest standard of public confidence in the judiciary.
On Feb 12, this year, the Court of Appeal bench comprising Datuk Yaacob Md Sam, Justice Rhodzariah and Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail allowed Tengku Adnan’s appeal to recuse Justice Mohd Nazlan from hearing his ongoing RM1 million corruption trial.
Tengku Adnan had appealed to the Court of Appeal against the decision by Justice Mohd Nazlan on Sept 20, last year, in dismissing his (Tengku Adnan’s) application for the judge (Mohd Nazlan) to recuse himself from hearing his trial.
On Sept 17, last year, Justice Mohd Nazlan fined Tan RM1.5 million in default 12 months’ jail after he (Tan) pleaded guilty to an alternative charge of abetting Tengku Adnan following a plea bargain entered between Tan and the prosecution.
The 69-year old Putrajaya Member of Parliament (Tengku Adnan) was charged with corruptly receiving for himself RM1 million from Tan which was deposited into his CIMB Bank account as an inducement to assist the application by Nucleus Properties Sdn Bhd to increase the company’s plot ratio in regard to a development project on Lot 228, Jalan Semarak, Kuala Lumpur.
He also faces an alternative charge in his capacity as federal territories minister of receiving for himself RM1 million from Tan via a Public Bank cheque belonging to Pekan Nenas Industries Sdn Bhd which was deposited into his CIMB account, knowing that Tan, as a director of Nucleus Properties Sdn Bhd, had connections with his official duties.
The prosecution’s appeal against the Court of Appeal’s decision is pending at the Federal Court.