200 witnesses expected in Sabah Water Department graft trial

Former SWD director Awang Mohd Tahir Awang Talib is led away after court proceedings today. ― Picture by Julia Chan
Former SWD director Awang Mohd Tahir Awang Talib is led away after court proceedings today. ― Picture by Julia Chan

KOTA KINABALU, Feb 28  — The Sabah Water Department (SWD) corruption case is expected to go on trial for some 16 days and to call some 200 witnesses.

Sessions Court judge Abu Bakar Manat set the date of the trial beginning July 4 over the course of four weeks to hear the case, the biggest bribe amount in cash heard in a case in the state.

The final pre-trial case management will be on May 4 to allow for final housekeeping details while the trial dates set are July 4-7, July 25-28, August 8-11, and August 22-25.

Abu Bakar said it was important to set the dates now in expectation of a long trial, given some 200 witnesses likely to be called by the prosecution and the massive amounts of documents that will be entered into evidence.

Deputy public prosecutor Husmaruddin Husin said that the final list of witnesses has yet to be finalised from a list of over 230.

Former SWD director Awang Mohd Tahir Awang Talib and his wife Fauziah are accused of money laundering, along with former deputy director Lim Lam Beng, in the biggest seizure made by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the country's history.

Awang Tahir was kept under detention as he was unable to raise bail, while Fauziah and Lim were out on bail.

On December 29, Awang Tahir, 54, Fauziah, 51, and Lim were charged with 37 counts of misappropriating infrastructure funds.

Awang Tahir was charged with eight counts of possession of over RM56.9 million in cash and in four bank accounts; two counts of possessing six luxury cars; one count of possessing 86 watches of various brands; and one count of being directly involved in a RM14,000 cash transaction to Cristine Fiona M. Ponsoi.

The charges were under Section 4(1)(b) and 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

Fauziah was charged under Section 4(1)(b) with 18 counts of possession of over RM2.2 million in 18 different bank accounts in Sabah and one count of possession of 93 bags of various brands that were allegedly proceeds from illegal activities.

The couple were also jointly charged under Section 4(1)(b) under two counts for possession of 575 pieces of gold jewellery and 346 other forms of jewellery.

Lim, 62, also claimed trial to the possession of RM2.38 million in proceeds from illegal activities.