The Sunday Star
by Roger Tan
Two newsworthy headlines in recent weeks merit some comments.
ON Sept 11 when I was taking a flight at Changi Airport, I came across the news report that a former Singapore prosecutor and crime buster, Glenn Knight, had apologised to former MCA president Tan Koon Swan for wrongly prosecuting him in the Pan-El crisis in 1986 (Koon Swan case ‘a mistake’, The Star, Sept 11).
I thought such a move was rather strange but then I was not able to get hold of a copy of the book, The Prosecutor, at the airport. Now that I have sighted it, some observations should be made.
Among other things, Knight wrote in his book, “He (Koon Swan) was charged in 1985 before Justice Lai Kew Chai and pleaded guilty to the charge. He was also given a two-year jail sentence. And a S$1 million fine, which he immediately appealed ...
“A similar CBT case came up for hearing, and Chief Justice Yong Pung How, who had replaced Justice Wee Chong Jin as Chief Justice in 1990, concluded that I was wrong to charge Koon Swan for the offence which got him convicted. Chief Justice Yong was of the opinion that the section that I had charged Koon Swan with was wrong in law, for we could not charge a person for stealing from a company because as a director, it was not a breach of the law in that sense ...
“In the United Kingdom, such a landmark judgment would have set aside Koon Swan’s conviction, but our jurisprudence does not allow for this, though technically Koon Swan could still have been granted a pardon ... The judgment meant that Koon Swan had been wrongly convicted and he was technically an innocent man.”
Firstly, there are some factual errors. Koon Swan was actually charged and he pleaded guilty in 1986, not 1985. Justice Lai’s decision was delivered on Aug 26, 1986. Apart from the two-year jail sentence, he was actually fined S$500,000, not S$1mil.