Koon Swan case ‘a mistake’


(The Star) – Former Singapore prosecutor Glenn Knight has apologised to ex-MCA president Tan Koon Swan for wrongly prosecuting him in the Pan-El crisis in the mid-1980s.

“It was extremely painful for me to suddenly discover that the Singapore courts had got it wrong,” Knight wrote in his recently published book, Glenn Knight: The Prosecutor.

Tan, who is in China for a business trip, said he was not prepared to comment as he had yet to read the book.

In 1985, Knight, the first director of the Singapore Commercial Affairs Department (CAD), prosecuted Tan, who faced 15 charges including criminal breach of trust (CBT) and share manipulation after the collapse of Pan-El Industries which termporarily halted the Malaysia and Singapore stock exchanges.

Tan, who had a stake in Pan-El, pleaded guilty and was jailed two years and fined S$1mil. He quit as MCA president after his sentencing.

In his book, Knight wrote that one of the most important cases of his life involved Pan-El, as the Pan-Electric group of companies was known.

“It was a highly significant case that led to enforceable regulations being introduced into Singapore’s stockbroking industry,” he said.

He wrote in a chapter titled “The Pan-El Debacle” that “as Koon Swan was the head of the MCA, I put up a paper on his involvement in the Pan-El saga but left it to my superiors to decide his fate as he was out of (Singapore) and in Malaysia”.

“In the end, the government decided that the CAD could prosecute Koon Swan.”

In 1996, in a similar CBT case, Singapore’s Chief Justice Yong Pung How concluded that Knight was wrong to have charged Koon Swan for the offence.

“Chief Justice Yong was of the opinion that the section I had charged Koon Swan with was wrong in law for we could not charge a person for stealing from a company because as a director, it was not a breach of the law in that sense,” he wrote.

“Chief Justice Yong concluded that it was wrong to convict anyone for stealing money if the wrong charge had been used to begin with. The judgment shattered my belief in our legal system.”

Knight wrote that many people asked if Chief Justice Yong’s judgment could be used to set aside the conviction in Koon Swan’s case.

“In the United Kingdom, such a landmark judgment would have set aside Koon Swan’s conviction but our jurisprudence does not allow for this though technically, Koon Swan could still have been granted a pardon,” he said.

Knight wrote that in 2010 he met Tan at a conference in Singapore and told him about Chief Justice Yong’s judgment, which meant that Tan was technically an innocent man”.

“He received the news with great excitement,” he recalled, adding that he (Knight) had also apologised.