SINGAPORE, Jan 7 — A Malaysian community leader initially fined S$15,000 (RM36,000) for offering a bribe to a traffic policeman was yesterday sentenced to jail for six weeks following an appeal by the prosecution.
Justice V. K. Rajah, handing down the jail term at the appeal hearing, stressed that the courts should take a firm, no-nonsense approach towards attempts at graft.
Any attempt to bribe a police officer will bring on a jail term, and if the bribe is accepted, both parties can expect “uncompromisingly stiff custodial sentences”, he said.
It is the way to go if the integrity of the police force as a pillar of society is to be upheld.
Rajah added that the jail term meted out to Lim Teck Choon, 56, took into account mitigating factors raised by his lawyer. He would otherwise have been jailed two to three months.
Lim, who has business interests on both sides of the Causeway, is a member of the MCA and the party's deputy chairman in the town of Kampong Jawa in Johor. A philanthropist, he regularly donates money to temples and an orphanage; in 1988, he donated a building for a school.
A traffic police officer caught Lim making an illegal U-turn on Woodlands Road and driving against the flow of traffic for 50m.
While waiting for a vehicle to take Lim back to the police station, Sergeant Pah Wenxiang tried to defuse the tense situation by starting a conversation.
Lim told the police officer that he owned a few plantations in Malaysia and knew high-ranking officials.
During the conversation, he abruptly asked Pah in Mandarin: “Why want to do this? Be enemy? You should let me go. We can be friends. Next time you come to Malaysia, I will take care of you. Still got good things.”
He also made a gesture that the officer took as an offer of money.
When the sergeant told him it was an offence to bribe a police officer, Lim backed off on his offer.
Lim initially contested the charge of offering a bribe, but pleaded guilty on the second day of trial and was fined S$15,000.
He was also fined S$2,500 and banned from driving for six months for dangerous driving.
The district judge acknowledged that a jail term was the norm in graft cases but felt a more lenient sentence was justified in this case.
She reasoned that Lim offered the bribe only after the officer struck up a conversation with him, and had not persisted with the offer once the police officer rejected it.
The prosecution filed an appeal.
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Jwee Nguan argued that the district judge had no grounds to depart from the sentencing norm of a jail term for such offences.
Rajah, saying there should be a clear framework of rules for situations like this, agreed that the district judge had erred in “applying an intricately nuanced sentencing approach to what is a plain and unmistakeable case of attempted corruption”.
In this case, it was incorrect to conclude that Lim's culpability was reduced just because the officer had initiated a casual conversation.
Rajah said it appears that Lim had assessed the situation and taken a measure of the officer before making his offer, thinking that the policeman might be vulnerable once his guard was down.
Lim's lawyer asked for the sentence to start on Feb 1 so that Lim can spend time with his family for Chinese New Year. Rajah agreed and granted bail of S$30,000.
The prosecution appealed against the fine for the graft charge. — The Straits Times
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
From Malaysian Insider