By Andrew Loh –
“On the facts of the present case, every one of the persons involved contributed to the offence of perverting the course of justice,” Justice Choo Han Teck said in his judgement on 19 July 2013. (See here.)
He was referring to the case involving Mr Seah Hock Thiam, who had earlier been “convicted of instigating his driver to get two scapegoats for illegal parking offences committed by his friends.” (Straits Times.)
The offence was committed in 2009.
According to the Straits Times, Mr Seah was convicted of two charges of abetting his driver, Mr Mohamad Azmi Abdul Wahab, 40, to find two people to take the blame for traffic offences committed by Mr John Ho Ah Huat, who drove a Porsche 911 Turbo, and Mr Ong Pang Aik, who drove a Maserati Gran Turino.
Mr Ong is the chairman and managing director of mainboard-listed construction group Lian Beng Group, and is active in the grassroots and community. [See here.]
Mr Oh was the chief executive of Scorpio East Holdings, a video entertainment company.
The two men had parked their cars illegally along Simon Road on Aug 12, 2009.
“After both men received summonses from the Traffic Police asking for the drivers’ particulars,” the Straits Times reported, “Mr Ong faxed over the documents to Seah, who handed them to his driver to settle. Seah paid both scapegoats about $300 each, a sum that included [a] $120 fine.”
Mr Seah was subsequently sentenced to 6 weeks jail in November 2012.
He appealed and Justice Choo reduced his sentence to a 1 week jail term in July 2013.
The 46-year-old Mr Seah is president of Esun International, which deals with the trading of scrap metal.
In his published judgement on the case, Justice Choo said:
“On the facts of the present case, every one of the persons involved contributed to the offence of perverting the course of justice.
“They were: the two men, Ong (who drove a Maserati Gran Turino) and Ho (who drove a Porsche 911 Turbo); the two persons who took their places; Mohamad Azmi who procured their services; and the appellant who instructed Mohamad Azmi.
“Whether they would be prosecuted is entirely a matter of the Public Prosecutor’s discretion.”
There are several points worth noting and some questions about this case which beg answering.
- The perverting of the course of justice was mentioned 8 times in Justice Choo’s judgement.
- The judge was of quite certain conviction that “every one of the persons involved contributed to the offence of perverting the course of justice.”
- Only Mr Seah was and has been charged and convicted of any offence.
While the judge also said that whether the others would be prosecuted “is entirely a matter of the Public Prosecutor’s discretion”, it is nonetheless puzzling why the Attorney General’s Chambers has chosen, apparently, not to pursue the case with the others.
Justice Choo said:
“[In] view of the fact that the offences committed by Ong and Ho were parking offences, I am of the view that it would be too harsh to place them at the same level of culpability as people who had committed much more serious traffic offences.”
One would beg to differ with the learned Judge. One would think that perverting the course of justice is quite a serious offence by itself, in fact. Whether this had resulted from just parking offences is quite beside the point.
In explaining why he was reducing Mr Seah’s sentence, the judge said:
“Furthermore, it was obvious from the facts that the appellant and his sports car riding friends were wealthy offenders in which a fine would be of little deterrence. What would deter them were demerit points – and a short custodial sentence.”
“The illegal parking offences each attracted a $120 fine and three demerit points,” reported the Straits Times.
One would also like to ask the Attorney General why none of the other offenders have apparently been charged if, as Justice Choo said, “every one of the persons involved contributed to the offence of perverting the course of justice.”
While the AGC has prosecutorial discretion in deciding whether to bring charges against anyone, it would enhance public trust in the judicial and legal system if the AGC could explain its decision in cases such as this one, especially when such an explicit pronouncement of guilt has been made by a learned judge.
Read the details of the case here: