GEORGE TOWN: A Sessions Court here granted a stay order in an extortion trial pending an appeal to recuse the judge presiding over the case.
Sessions Judge Mazdi Abdul Hamid granted the order after lawyer Datuk V. Sithambaram applied for the stay pending an appeal at the High Court to recuse Mazdi due to a possibility of bias in the case.
Earlier, Sithambaram raised affidavits filed by lawyer A. Ramesh Raj who claims to have received a phone call from the investigating officer of the case, Loh Wooi Kee, saying that the case was a "done deal" and that the judge had a meeting with Loh and others indicating that the eight accused in the case would be found guilty.
"Loh is not a third party to the case and is the investigating officer. Loh and Ramesh are friends and used to be housemates," he added.
Sithambaram said that Loh's statements made Ramesh and his client Ng Tian Yu - who is one of the eight accused of extortion - fear that all the accused in these cases will be convicted without considering the merits of the case.
"Loh or the prosecution have yet to file a rebuttal affidavit to oppose or deny the allegations made by Ramesh or Ng.
"Now the question that begs determination is with the facts and circumstances of the present case, is there a real danger of possibility of bias on your part if you continue to hear this case, ”
Sithambaram asked Mazdi in court on Monday (Oct 19).
Sithambaram cited case law and raised that despite there being no actual bias, Mazdi should recuse himself from hearing the cases in view of the possibility of bias.
Sithambaram said that the accused persons would fear that they may not get a fair trial should Mazdi continue to hear the cases in view of the facts.
Mazdi decided not to recuse himself and continued with court proceedings.
Sithambaram then requested for a stay order on the trial, pending an appeal on retaining Mazdi as the judge, which Mazdi allowed.
According to the prosecution team, in 2018, Chong Heang Kim, Chan Eng Leong, Loh Tina, Tan Kok Siang, Chow Fook Yong, Chow Fong See, Chow Phong Chiew and Ng were charged with multiple charges under Section 386 of the Penal Code for extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt.
They were charged with extorting money and assets worth millions from a businessman.
Mazdi set Dec 17 for case management pending the decision of the appeal.
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