FOUR statements given by two deported Lebanese linesmen will be admitted as court evidence in the corruption trial of alleged match-fixer Eric Ding despite the absence of their testimony.
District Judge Toh Yung Cheong delivered the ruling yesterday after a three-day ancillary hearing, but gave the caveat that the decision is not final, and may be reversed after hearing full evidence.
The judge noted that practicable attempts had been made by Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) officer Jeffrey Tan, through the making of phone calls and sending of e-mails, and when that came to nought, enlisting the help of Imad Nasr, vice-consul of the Lebanese consulate in the city-state.
Addressing the linesmen's poor command of English, Toh said: "I was of the view that the lack of an interpreter did not make any difference.
"This is not the case where the investigating officer spoke to them and they refused to come because they did not understand what he was saying."
Even if the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act was invoked, such that diplomatic assistance is sought to get the witnesses to testify, they cannot be subject to any penalty and liability if they choose not to return, the judge said.
"It appears that there are no other legal means to secure the return," said Toh.
The judge added that given the precedence of this case, "it will be useful for all law enforcement agencies to agree on a common standard operating procedure to ensure consistency, in respect of securing the attendance of prosecution witnesses overseas."
Ding, a 31-year-old businessman, is facing three counts of bribing three Fifa-accredited officials to induce them into fixing a future match.
Referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, had testified against Ding last month while serving his six-month jail term. He has since been released for good behaviour and deported. -The Straits Times / Asia News Network
CITY Harvest Church members had overwhelmingly supported its co-founder Ho Yeow Sun's music career as a way to evangelise, and external lawyers had found nothing wrong with various allegedly suspect financial transactions.
That was the defence put up yesterday by lawyers for six church leaders accused of the misuse of church funds.
The state believes the money was channelled into Ho's career in 2007 and 2008 through sham bonds issued by two companies run by church members, glassware manufaturer Firna and music firm Xtron Productions, which managed Ho's career from 2003 to 2008.
But defence lawyers said that church members had long supported Ho's music ambitions as a way to evangelise and voted to approve it in board meetings.
In 2010, several years after the church invested in the bonds and months after the authorities raided the church's offices, church members had also "overwhelmingly" voted to retroactively approve the bond purchases, Xtron director and church member Choong Kar Weng added when questioned by defence lawyers.
N. Sreenivasan, lawyer for accused church leader Tan Ye Peng, also noted that external lawyers for Xtron had found nothing wrong with these and other allegedly suspect transactions at the time they were carried out.
He put it to Choong: "Did the lawyers warn you that (the bond investments) was an improper use of the CHC (City Harvest Church) fund?", to which Choong replied: "Not that I know of."
City Harvest founder Kong Hee and five of his deputies were charged last year with misappropriating about S$24mil (RM62.4mil) to finance Ho's career and purportedly took another S$26mil (RM67.6mil) to cover the first amount up.
The money was allegedly taken from the church's building funds meant for the land purchases, rental, furniture and construction. -The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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