If the authorities haven’t realised it by now, here’s the newsflash: there’s something wrong about our justice system where white collar crooks are concerned.
And I’m not talking about Fearless or Wannabe Leader, that dynamic duo of irredeemably impeachable integrity.
In the early 2000s, it was all the rage, the darling of the equity market. Its prices kept defying gravity and institutional funds queued up to get a slice of the firm. It had gilt-edged shareholders, too, including the country’s richest man, Robert Kuok and Pos Malaysia.
But Kuok was a passive investor with no part in the firm’s management. And like America’s Enron, it turned out that Transmile’s success was fraudulent and mired in financial misstatements.
In 2007, the stock crashed when its revenue overstatements became clear. A special audit concluded that the 2005 and 2006 financial years were also overstated.
Transmile suffered losses of RM126.3 million (reported profit RM157.5 million) in 2006. In 2005, it chalked up losses of RM369.6 million instead of the RM84.4 million profit it declared.
Investors lost millions. So did Mr Kuok and the government. And employees lost sleep, self-respect and ultimately their jobs when the chartered air-freight operator was delisted in 2011.
In 2007, the Securities Commission charged the firm’s founder and CEO Gan Boon Aun for misrepresenting Transmile’s figures. Last year, he was found guilty by the Sessions Court and sentence to a day’s jail and a RM2.5 million fine.
Now, there’s deterrence for you!
Here’s how Gan’s 2007 trial went, and note that the Sessions Court is but the first prong in a four-pronged court process that stretches to the Federal Court. He was called to enter his defence in 2011 but his defence only commenced seven years later, in 2018.
Why, you will ask?
Well, Gan, now newly-anointed legal eagle, decided to mount a constitutional challenge of the law under which he was charged. Having exhausted that, it was back to the drawing board in 2018 and, finally, conviction in 2020.
His appeal against his conviction was fixed for a year later, namely now.
Not surprisingly, Gan’s decided that the way to go was to never darken the doorsteps of the Malaysian authorities anymore and so appears to have skipped town.
Truly, he was reading from the Gospel of Felonious (aka Jho Low), the less-than trusty sidekick of Fearless who, having judiciously weighed the balance of probabilities in his case, concluded that it was better to be safe than sorry.
It was better to claim innocence in the luxurious confines of Macao than sweating it out in Kuala Lumpur. Although he could now see the merits of Fearless’ strategy of paying handsome legal fees to permanently stay in trials while recouping political mileage.
An arrest warrant has since been issued against Gan but as Felonious might say “warrant, schmarrant!”
Where was Gan? Well, he still has a perfectly valid Malaysian passport so we can safely conclude that he is neither in North Korea nor Israel. Apart from that, your guess is as good as the Securities Commission’s.
It took 14 years for Gan to lose the first round of his case. So it might be no exaggeration to conclude that, with sufficient funds for a stout defence, he might have stayed out till hell froze over. But, much to the chagrin of the legal profession, he chose to skip town.
Still, when it came to the “moral misconduct” of a former deputy premier, the wheels of justice moved with uncharacteristic speed.
Miracles do occur, it seems.