Ex-Sabah CM maintains not guilty plea, trial begins in 2020

KUALA LUMPUR – Former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman today maintained his plea of not guilty on 35 counts of corruption related to timber concessions in Sabah and 16 counts of money laundering involving more than US$37.8 million and S$2.5 million.

His case was brought for mention today after the case was transferred from the Sessions Court to the High Court. 

All 51 charges were read out again to the accused for almost one hour by two court interpreters before justice Collin Lawrence Sequerah.

In the dock, Musa, 68, was allowed to be seated, in consideration of his health.

Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran applied for the 35 corruption charges and 16 money laundering charges to be consolidated for trial as the transactions were related.

Musa’s lawyers led by Francis Ng Aik Guan did not object.

Sequerah allowed the application and set 22 days for trial from June 8, 2020, with the prosecution expected to call 30 witnesses.

The trial dates are: June 8-11, June 15-18, June 22-25, July 6-7, July 13-16 and July 20-23.

Meanwhile, the court has set July 24 this year for case management.

On the 35 corruption charges, Musa, as a Sabah state government agent, that is, as chief minister and Yayasan Sabah board of trustees chairman is accused of accepting gratification totalling US$63.3 million (RM263,460,962.313).

The money was allegedly an inducement for awarding timber concession contracts to a number of companies including Syarikat Segar Tepat Sdn Bhd and J.V. Lestari Sdn Bhd.

He allegedly committed the offences at seven banks and financial institutions abroad, among them, HSBC Bank, Claymore Plaza, and Ocean Tower in Singapore as well as UBS AG Bank, Central Hong Kong, China.

The charges are framed under Section 11(a) of the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Act 1997 and punishable under Section 16 of the same Act.

If found guilty, he faces on each count, a maximum 20 years in jail and a fine of not less than five times the bribe amount or RM10,000, whichever is higher.  

On the first money laundering charge, Musa allegedly directed one Richard Christopher Barnes, 67, to open an account under the latter’s name at UBS AG Bank in Singapore through which he received proceeds from illegal activities on June 21, 2006.

Musa also faces an alternative charge of directing Barnes to open an account at UBS AG Bank, Singapore under the latter’s name to conceal his assets derived from proceeds of illegal activities at the same place and date.

On the second to 15th charges, Musa is accused of receiving proceeds from illegal activities, from individuals and companies through Barnes’ account.

On the 16th charge, the former Sabah chief minister is accused of attempting to commit money laundering by directing Barnes to transfer all his assets and cash derived from illicit proceeds that were channelled into the latter’s account to his own at UBS AG Bank, Zurich.

He allegedly committed the offences at UBS AG Bank, Central Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the Republic of China between June 21, 2006 and May 14, 2008.

The charges framed under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 carries on conviction, a maximum jail term of 15 years and a fine of five times the amount involved or RM5 million, whichever is higher.