Kong Hee and his City Harvest Gang of Frauds might have gotten their jail terms halved after a High Court ruling, but there’ll be no popping of any China Wine just yet.
The Public Prosecutor is seeking harsher punishments for the six Criminal Breach of Trust convicts and has asked the Court of Appeal – the highest court in Singapore – to address “questions of law of public interest”.
The High Court downgraded their charges down from CBT charges from Section 409 to Section 406 of the Penal code, and consequently reduced their jail terms.
But the Public Prosecutor now wants to know through this process, called a Criminal Reference, whether a director or member of an organisation’s governing body who has been entrusted with property should not be considered as “an agent” – which was a significant point in the downgrading of the charges.
Said the Attorney-General’s Chambers:
“If the Court of Appeal answers the questions referred in accordance with the Prosecution’s submissions, the Prosecution intends to request that the Court of Appeal … reinstate the appellants’ original convictions under section 409 of the Penal Code and make necessary and consequential orders in relation to the sentences given.”
The government, via Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, has also said that this matter is “not over yet” and that it could take further steps following the High Court ruling in its bid to uphold its “zero-tolerance” stance towards corruption in Singapore.
A Criminal Reference is a type of legal hearing before the apex court, which is limited to criminal cases in which a question of law of public interest arises in a High Court decision on an appeal.
When the question is before the Court of Appeal, the judges hearing the case can decide whether to answer it, based on the merits of the question.
The court may also revise the High Court’s decision after the Criminal Reference hearing.