by Hafiz Yatim@www.malaysiakini.com
After a trial lasting over a year, the Shah Alam High Court today found former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohd Khir Toyo guilty of graft. He has been sentenced to 12 months' jail beginning today, and the property in question has been ordered to be forfeited to the government.
In delivering sentence, Justice Mohtaruddin Baki said a deterrent sentence was needed because in cases involving public and private interests, public interests must take precedence.
"This is truly a heinous crime as the accused may have used his position (as Menteri Besar) to obtain the property.Hence, a deterrent sentence requiring a custodial sentence is warranted in view of the offence," said Mohtaruddin.
He added that as the Chief Executive, Khir should have set an example. After a short pause, Mohtaruddin sentence Khir to 12 months' jail. However, the court granted stay of execution of the sentence pending appeal to the higher courts. The prosecution did not object.
The court also decided not to raise the bail amount and it will remain at RM750,000 set earlier. Earlier Mohtaruddin said the prosecution had managed to prove the case against the 46-year-old Sungai Panjang assemblyperson beyond reasonable doubt.
While the prosecution applied for the multi-million-ringgit property in question to be forfeited, the defence appealed to the judge for Khir to be bound over on good behaviour.
Khir was charged under section 165 of the Penal Code, a lesser graft charge compared to charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the new Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act.
It had been speculated whether Khir would receive more than one year's jail term or a fine in excess of RM2,000 - that would have cost him eligibility as an assemblyperson and banned him from contesting in the coming elections.
'First time offender'
Pleading in mitigation counsel M Athimulan told the court that Khir was a first offender and married with six children. "The charge and conviction is unique as the valuer had evaluated the property at RM3.5 million as it is an uncompleted property," he said.
He also submitted that section 165 is a compoundable offence and the court has wide jurisdiction to allow the imposition of a fine.
"If this case had been tried at a magistrate's court the maximum could be RM10,000.We argue under the concept of Equality under Article 8 of the Federal Constitution to impose the fine of RM10,000 and not more than this although this has been brought before the High Court," he said.
Athimulan pleaded for Khir to be bound over, pointing out that the court has the power under section 173a of the Criminal Procedure Code to release the accused. Kamarul Hisham asked Justice Mohtaruddin to tamper justice with mercy as Khir had been the state's chief executive and by convicting him the court had already punished him.
'Come down hard on abuse'
DPP Mohd Masri Daud on his part, argued that although the accused was charged under Section 165 the court should send a strong message that as a public servant one should not seek favours.
"It is clear that the accused was interested in the property in 2004 and asked Shamsudin to buy it and later bought it for himself.As the Menteri Besar and Chairperson of the Selangor Development Corporation, he should have set an example and not use his contacts and acquiantances to benefit himself," he said.
Mohd Masri then delivered a shocker when he applied to the court under Section 36 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1997 for the mansion to be forfeited.
"In any offence of graft of such a nature, the court has the discretion to grant forfeiture of the property," he said.
Athimulan said the defence was taken aback by the prosecution's application as it had given no indication of doing so. He then asked that the court to fix another date to determine the prosecution application on the forfeiture of the property.
The court subsequently took a break before delivering sentence.Also present in court was his wife Zaharah Kechik and about 40 of his supporters, some seated and others standing in the packed courtroom.
Khir was represented by a team of lawyers led by Jahaberdeen Yunoos, M Athimulan and Kamarul Hisham Kamaruddin.DPP Abdul Wahab Mohamed represented the prosecution.
Khir arrived in court as early as 9.15am, with scores of his supporters in tow.
Second Selangor MB charged with corruption
Khir was charged on Dec 4 last year, with corruption for obtaining for himself and his wife Zahrah Kechik, two lots of land and a house at No 8 & 10, Jalan Suasa 7/1L, from Ditamas Sdn Bhd director Shamsuddin Hayroni, at RM3.5 million - a lower price than the RM6.5 million Ditamas paid for it in 2004.
The former Selangor MB allegedly entered into the transaction with the knowledge that Shamsuddin had dealings with him in his official capacity as the state’s chief executive at that time.
The Sungai Panjang assemblyperson allegedly committed the offence at the Selangor Menteri Besar’s official residence at Jalan Permata 7/1, Section 7, Shah Alam on May 29, 2007.
He is the second Selangor Menteri Besar to be charged with graft after the late Harun Idris, who spend three years in prison in 1977.
Khir in one of his blog postings this year alleged that three federal ministers had wanted him jailed for graft following the charge.Without naming the ministers, Khir claimed one of them was said to have told the other two that to get back Selangor, he (Khir) must be charged.
“Are they powerful enough to control a judge? I don’t believe they can direct a judge nor will a judge listen to this group,” wrote Khir in the blog, resulting in spiralling speculation on the identity of the three.
Twenty-five prosecution witnesses and five defence witnesses, including Khir, testified at the trial.