KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here today upheld the three-year prison sentence and a RM50,000 fine imposed on former Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Peter Anthony for forging a letter for the purpose of cheating.
Judge Datuk Ahmad Bache made the decision after dismissing Peter’s appeal to set aside the conviction and sentence imposed by the Sessions Court on May 26 last year..
The court also allowed an application by lawyer S. Devanandan, representing Peter, to stay the execution of the jail sentence and conviction pending the disposal of an appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Peter, 52, filed the appeal in June last year against the three years’ imprisonment and a fine of RM50,000 after he was found guilty of forging a letter for a Mechanical and Electrical Systems (M&E) maintenance and service contract at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in 2014.
Peter was charged in his capacity as managing director of Syarikat Asli Jati Sdn Bhd with forging a letter from the office of the UMS Deputy Vice-Chancellor, dated June 9, 2014, by inserting a false statement with the intention of using it for fraudulent purposes.
The offence was allegedly committed at the office of the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary at the Perdana Putra building in Putrajaya between June 13 and August 21, 2014.
However, the Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) president paid the fine.
Judge Ahmad in his judgment said the court agreed with the trial judge’s findings that the third prosecution witness (SP3) Mohd Shukur Mohd Din, UMS deputy vice-chancellor (Academic & International) Professor Dr Shariff Abdul Kadir S. Omang (SP8) and former UMS Registrar Datuk Abdullah Mohd Said (SP9) were not the appellant’s accomplice.
“The court also found that there was no reason for these witnesses to lie and support each other because they were victims of being deceived and used by the appellant (Peter). Their testimony was consistent that they thought P2 (letter of support) was for the benefit of UMS for the purpose of ‘smart partnership’ and not for their personal interests,” he said.
He said SP8 and SP9 had obtained a blank letterhead from the former vice-chancellor of Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah (SP1) and then SP3 typed a draft letter of support, but the title on the letterhead was not typed by SP3.
“The information also shows that several letters of support have been made by the appellant and SP8, SP9 and SP3 have also given letters of support as requested by the appellant. These three witnesses then met Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak who was then the prime minister and finance minister to minute the letters of support,” he said.
Judge Ahmad said the session court judge (HMS) was not wrong and the court also agreed with the judge’s finding that the appellant falsified documents, despite knowing that the project was made through an open tender.
“The court agrees that the appellant’s defence was an afterthought which ultimately brought disaster to the appellant. After examining all the available evidence and taking into account the arguments of both parties and examining the exhibits, the court agrees with the trial judge’s findings that the defense failed to raise reasonable doubt and therefore, the court dismisses the appellant’s appeal,” said the judge.
Earlier, Devanandan requested that the court reduce the prison sentence and fine imposed by the trial judge which was considered excessive considering the appellant’s contribution to the people of Sabah.
“The appellant was a minister in Sabah before being accused in court and he contributed a lot to the people of the state in addition to providing projects and programmes for UMS students to undergo training at the appellant’s company.
“The court also needs to consider the factor of the appellant who is a first offender,” said the lawyer who also requested that the court allow a stay of execution of the prison sentence pending an appeal at the Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said there was no denying that the appellant was an educated person and had contributed a lot for Sabah and that matter had been taken into account by the trial judge before sentencing.
“The fine of RM50,000 is just a pittance for the appellant. Therefore, I request that the prison sentence and the fine be maintained because it is not too high,” he said.
Wan Shaharuddin also did not object to the lawyer’s application for a stay of the execution of the prison sentence because the appellant never caused any problems during the proceedings of his case in the Sessions Court.
“The appellant must be given the opportunity to appeal and we do not object to the lawyer’s application,” he said.