By Chen Shaua Fui | The Edge Financial Daily
After three deferments, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court has sentenced Low Thiam Hock, former executive chairman of Repco Holdings Bhd, to five years in jail and a fine of RM5 million, after finding him guilty of market manipulation involving Repco shares in 1997.
Low, 54, was also ordered to serve another five years in jail if he fails to pay the fine. The sentence against Low is the highest imprisonment term imposed by the courts in a market manipulation case, according to a statement from the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC).
However, Sessions Court Judge Mat Ghani Abdullah yesterday allowed the defence’s application to stay the execution of both the fine and jail term, pending the defence’s appeal.
The defence applied for a stay of execution based on section 311 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which states that the court has the discretion to allow a stay of execution for any offence.
Deputy Public Prosecutor from the SC, Roz Mawar, objected to the stay of execution, but to no avail.
Judge Mat Ghani Abdullah also imposed an additional RM1 million bail on Low, setting his bail at RM1.3 million. Low’s bail was previously set at RM300,000.
Low, better known as Repco Low, was convicted on Jan 11 for market manipulation involving shares in Repco, an offence which entailed a minimum fine of RM1 million and imprisonment of not more than 10 years.
Low, who was clad in a white shirt, appeared calm when the sentence was read out to him yesterday.
Low’s lawyer, Edmund Bon, said the defence will appeal to the Kuala Lumpur High Court this week over the sentences handed down to Low.
“We are dissatisfied with the decision. We will file an appeal to the High Court this week,” Bon said.
He had earlier filed an appeal over Low’s conviction in January. However, the High Court has not fixed a hearing date for the appeal.
Low’s sentencing yesterday came after it was postponed three times. He was supposed to be sentenced on Jan 19, which was then postponed to Jan 22, and then to Feb 15, and finally to yesterday, at the request of the defence.
He was convicted of creating a misleading appearance to the price of Repco shares on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange on Dec 3, 1997, by acquiring 227,000 Repco shares. On that day, the share price went up to RM108.50 to close at RM113, while the market was crashing in 1997, according to the prosecution.
Though the defence had argued that Low was buying back the shares that were wrongfully sold and that he did not obtain any financial gains from the transaction, Low was found guilty under section 84(1) of the Securities Industry Act 1983, which is punishable under section 91 of the same Act.
During the prosecution’s case, 25 witnesses were called; eight defence witnesses testified when Low was ordered to enter defence.
During the course of the 17-year long legal process, Low was initially acquitted by the Sessions Court on Nov 14, 2006. The SC then appealed against the case to the High Court but failed to overturn the decision in 2010.
Subsequently, the regulator appealed to the Court of Appeal and succeeded in 2013. The Court of Appeal then ordered the case to go back to the Sessions Court, whereby Low was ordered to enter his defence.