SINGAPORE (Sept 2): The prosecution and defence counsels in the penny stock crash trial clashed again in court over an application to amend charges, in particular over whether the new charges would pertain to a different section of the penal code which carries a lighter punishment.
This development follows the end of the first tranche of court hearings in May, which saw lawyers representing John Soh Chee Wen and Quah Su-Ling disagree with state prosecutors over specifics, such as the start and end dates of the charges, as well as how the prosecution witnesses’ conditioned statements were prepared.
The ongoing trial has seen the defence and prosecution go back and forth on legal technicalities such as whether documents had been served on time and the prosecution had fulfilled its obligation in serving the documents to the defence.
This is not the first time a new development has led to a postponement of trial dates. On the eve of the start of the trial scheduled for March 11, Goh Hin Calm, who was one of the defendants, turned prosecution witness. That pushed back by a week the start of the trial, which went on for five weeks before it was adjourned on May 24.
On Aug 27, Soh’s lawyer, N Sreenivasan, who is senior counsel of Straits Law, and Quah’s lawyer, Sui Yi Siong, who is senior associate of Eversheds Harry Elias, clashed with deputy public prosecutor (DPP) Nicholas Tan over the specificity of the amendment of the charges. They took issue with the fact that it was unclear what punishment the amended charges would carry. The amended charges fall under Section 120B of the Penal Code, which carries either the same punishment as under Section 109, or Section 116 if he has committed an offence under that section, and which carries a lighter punishment.
The prosecution, in its written and oral arguments, stated its intentions to prove that Soh and Quah should be charged under Section 120B, which carries the same punishment as the previous charges. The defence, however, argued that the prosecution was continually adding new documents and shifting further away from its opening address. Both defence counsels accused the prosecution of making vague charges with no specificity to frame their defence. “It is a composite case with many charges,” said Sui.
DPP Tan took exception to the language that Sui and Sreenivasan used. “These statements are inaccurate and unhelpful,” said Tan.
He argued that the prosecution had addressed that Soh and Quah would be facing punishment according to Section 109. The actual length of the punishment is up to the courts to decide.
“We don’t know what they are facing now; what we are saying is that we are submitting in a certain way. That the defence knows and we have said it a few times and they cannot say they don’t know,” said Tan.
The prosecution argued that there had been enough particulars and specificity in the amended charges. Sreenivasan, however, disagreed. “Because of these amendments, we have lost 30 days of trial, and the costs have gone up. The state has unlimited resources, but my client does not,” he said.
Sui, on the other hand, argued that the changes are significant and would affect the defence strategy. He also said there should be a reduction in the charges for his client, Quah, as the charges lack particulars.
However, Justice Hoo Sheau Peng ruled in favour of the prosecution and allowed the charges to be amended. Hoo also agreed with the prosecution’s framing of the multiple charges and there being sufficient particulars to the charges.
The trial resumes on Sept 30, when Soh and Quah will enter their pleas.