Ex-Sabah Water Dept deputy director cleared of 146 money-laundering charges

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Former Sabah Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Kong shed tears of joys after being cleared of money-laundering charges by the Special Court for Corruption today.

This came after judge Abu Bakar Manat acquitted Teo of all 146 money-laundering charges at the request of Teo’s counsel following a new development in the case.

The prosecution, he said, had confirmed that they no longer wished to pursue the case. There are also no further investigations against him, he added.

The prosecution also did not object to changing the discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) issued by the court on Feb 18.

“As such, the accused is now ordered by this court to be acquitted and discharged of all 146 charges,” said Abu Bakar.

Teo, 57, was one of four key suspects involved in the Sabah Water Department scandal, touted as one of the biggest corruption cases in the country.

Following the scandal, the prosecution had submitted several applications in 2017 to prohibit Teo from dealing with certain properties worth millions which he owned in Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Apart from being given a DNAA on Feb 18, it was also disclosed that on the same day, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had issued a RM30 million compound to Teo as punitive action and a form of asset recovery.

The issuance of the compound was under Section 92 (1) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUA) 2001.

Earlier, counsel Ram Singh told the court that Teo has fully settled the compound of RM30 million within the stipulated time given.

Ram said the defence also received a letter from the prosecution dated March 10, stating that the prosecution does not intend to prosecute further, and that all charges against Teo were discontinued, with no further action taken.

Ram during proceedings in the High Court yesterday, said the prosecution confirmed the defence agreement that the forfeiture of property in relation to land belonging to the accused, as well as bank account belonging to the accused and his son and all other restrictions pertaining to overseas properties and assets be revoked and released to Teo and his family members.

Ram said the prosecution confirmed before the High Court that all matters pertaining to charges and properties in Malaysia, Singapore and New Zealand be discontinued.

Deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Mahadi Abdul Jumaat confirmed that the Malaysian government had received RM30 million paid by Teo as a compound under Section 92 AMLATFPUA 2001. He also confirmed that there will be no further prosecution on the same charges, as well as action over the properties.

Asked for comment after the court proceedings, Ram said his client was happy and that he is now a free man.

“My client (Teo) wishes to lead a normal life with his family, who was very much affected after a five-year ordeal.

“As for his job as the deputy director of the Sabah Water Department, Teo is letting nature take its course,” said Ram.

Ram was assisted by counsel Kimberly Ye Wanchuin and Chen Wen Jye. Mahadi appeared together with DPP Haresh Prakash Somiah.

During the proceedings at the High Court yesterday, Judicial Commissioner Amelati Parnell revoked the restriction order on Teo’s properties in Singapore and New Zealand with immediate effect. The court also withdrew the previous order to forfeit his property in Malaysia.

Teo was first brought to court on Dec 13, 2017, where he pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

He was charged under Sections 4 (1) (a) and 4 (1) (b), both of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 and Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

The first 78 charges saw Teo accused of possessing land obtained from illegal activities through 78 transactions of transferring ownership worth RM12,705,203.70.

The other 68 counts saw Teo accused of possessing cash amounting to RM7,930,810.48 and also RM12,287,240.07 cash at financial institutions.

The charges stated that Teo had committed the offences at separate locations at land district offices and bank branches here, in Penampang and Beaufort between 2005 and 2016.

The other accused involved in the case are ex-Sabah State Water Department director Ag Mohd Tahir Mohd Talib, Tahir’s wife Fauziah Ag Piut, and Lim Lam Beng @ Lim Chee Hong.

Lim was the former deputy director of the department before Teo.

They had claimed trial to 37 counts of money-laundering involving more than RM61 million.

Their trial is fixed on April 11 to 14, April 25 to 27, May 17 to 19 and June 13 to 15. – NST