"The admission by former top Singapore public prosecutor that he wrongly prosecuted businessman and former MCA president Tan Koon Swan in the Pan El Industries case in 1985 made top news in all the major Chinese papers yesterday.
Glenn Knight said he felt extremely pained for putting Tan behind bars on discovering his mistake years later, and he had since apologised to Tan.
Tan was slapped with 15 charges of fraud, cheating, stock market manipulation and abetment of criminal breach of trust (CBT) in the collapse of Pan El. He was sentenced to 18 months jail and fined S$500,000 (RM1.2 million) upon conviction in 1986.
The case and its outcome not only changed the fate of Tan and MCA but also greatly impacted on the Malaysian Chinese community and political scene. Tan quit as MCA president following his conviction..."
Looking back, it must have been one of the biggest blunders made by a public prosecutor, and which had one of the greatest impacts on a public figure, his family, party and supporters. It was because of the case in Singapore that Tan committed CBT in Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd in Malaysia because he was under the impression that restitution of S$20 million would mitigate his offences in Singapore and avoid a custodial sentence. Some even suggested that he was under the impression that being President of MCA would help, and there were some who suggested that Dr. Mahathir refused to lend a hand politically because he was afraid of Tan's charisma as President of MCA! If we were to compare what Tun did to his potential successor, Anwar, who also excels in being charismatic, it lends credence to the seemingly ludicrous suggestion.
But there were major differences:
Singapore public prosecutor was acting on his own in a no-nonsense country which was more concerned over its credibility as an international financial centre, and he had since admitted his mistake and apologised to Tan.
In Malaysia, most people believe the AG and other institutions were merely taking orders from the dictator. Apology? Never in their lifetimes, probably because the word is not in their vocabulary, or so well hidden and unused that it could not be recalled or found easily. Conscience? God knows how they feel about it.
Update at 4.22 pm:
Koon Swan was a victim of Umno's "blackhand" - Jui Meng
Update on Sept 15 1.34 am:
Singapore A-G notes flaws in book by Tan Koon Swan's prosecutor