By Hafiz Yatim | The Edge

(From left) Former GIIB Holdings Bhd director Wong Ping Kiong, lawyers Kee Shu Min and Amer Hamzah Arshad, and former GIIB director Tai Boon Wee. — GIIB HOLDINGS BHD

Two former top officials of GIIB Holdings Bhd, namely former executive director Wong Ping Kiong and former CEO Tai Boon Wee, were on Tuesday discharged and acquitted by the High Court of charges related to the furnishing of fake documents to the company’s auditor Grant Thornton Malaysia PLT over the sale of RM2.95 million worth of machinery that allegedly did not exist.

Judge Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid granted the defence’s motion to acquit the duo. The decision was confirmed by their counsel Amer Hamzah Arshad.

“After reading the submissions and affidavits, the court agrees with the defence and hence grants the relief to set-aside the charges and an acquittal,” Azhar said in his decision.

Wong, 60, was charged in January on four counts of giving fake documents to Grant Thornton audit manager Tam Siew Peng. The first document involved a fake GIIB debit note on the sale of machinery by the company for RM2.95 million to Top Rate Engineering, which never occurred.

On the second, third and fourth charges, Wong was charged with acting in the same fashion in giving a directors’ circular from GIIB’s subsidiary — Goodway Rubber Industries Sdn Bhd — to Grant Thornton, involving the sale of the RM2.95 million worth of machinery to Top Rate Engineering Works. The prosecution claimed that the sale never took place, and that money never changed hands.

Wong was charged under section 18 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act, where she could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined RM10,000, or five times the value of the bribe, whichever is higher.

Tai, meanwhile, was charged on the same day, with colluding with Wong. He was charged under section 28(1)(c) of the MACC Act, which relates to abetting or engaging in a criminal conspiracy to commit any offence under the Act. If he had been found guilty, he could have faced the same punishment as Wong.

The duo filed a motion to strike out the charges on May 5, as they said that they had no intention to deceive Grant Thornton; that the document in question does not relate to Grant Thornton; that there is a need to show that Grant Thornton was actually cheated or deceived; and the three directors’ circular resolution cannot be fake in its contents.

Their lawyers had argued that the duties and responsibilities of an auditor under the Companies Act 2016 do not constitute an interest under section 18 of the MACC Act.

Here, the lawyers said the auditor does not have direct financial interest in the document, which is alleged to have false particulars.

“Such issue falls under the purview of the Companies Commission Malaysia and not the MACC,” they added.

In a statement, Tai said: “The facts remain clear that we were subjected to false allegations and a conspiracy to tarnish our reputations. I am glad that the High Court has upheld justice. Moving forward, I wish the next generation leaders will continue to be guided by GIIB Group’s core value of integrity, trust and respect.”

Last month, it was reported that Tai had passed the leadership of the company to his sons Tai Qisheng and Tai Qiyao, by electing them executive directors.