Courts | IPIM: Prosecutors said to muster only ‘irrelevant and circumstantial’ evidence

This courtroom sketch shows lawyers Icília Berenguel (left) and Jorge Ho (right) deliver closing statements, while defendant Jackson Chang looks on

The defense lawyers for 26 people allegedly connected to an unlawful residency application scheme at the Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) agree on one aspect of the case above all. They all consider that the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) has not been able to prove the large majority, if any, of the facts used to try the defendants.
The assertion first asserted on Monday by the legal representatives of the first two defendants. This continued yesterday, with defense lawyers presenting evidence suggesting that the MP was making speculative and circumstantial accusations.
This was also the stance of lawyer Pedro Leal, who is representing former executive director of IPIM, Glória Batalha Ung.
Starting with a humorous remark, the lawyer said he was pleased by the fact that the previous day’s accusations had dedicated very little time and attention to his client’s case. He explained that can only mean that the accusations aimed at the former executive director were not that serious or important, and that the accusations against her were weak.
Leal then started to dismantle the theory of the accusations. He said that “even the irrelevant and circumstantial evidence brought to the trial by the MP should not be validated by the court.”
The lawyer explained that the crimes that Batalha was being accused of were semi-public. This means that in order to be investigated and constitute reason for an accusation, they depend on a prior and formal complaint from a person or entity which the object of the crime is related to. In this case, the investigation would depend on a formal complaint by the IPIM leadership or its immediate superior, the Secretary for Economy and Finance.
According to Leal, this did not occur until very late in the process. The MP then justified this using a letter from IPIM. In the letter however, IPIM claims that it is not aware of any wrongdoing or evidence that might constitute a crime by Batalha.
“This is not a formal complaint and a request for Batalha to be investigated. This is an acknowledgment of ignorance of any facts that could indicate crime,” Leal said. He added that the letter also came on December 12, 2018, almost two months after the investigation into Batalha had officially started.
The lawyer proposed that this was enough of a reason for the evidence collected before the date of the IPIM letter to be disregarded by the court, though this did not occur.
Leal said that an unfair investigation that results in an unfair result is like a “poisonous tree that gives poisonous fruits.”
The lawyer continued to show why he disagreed with the theory of the crimes which his client was being accused of, as he had done in several prior court sessions. He quoted several experts on law and penal code interpretation to show that Batalha’s alleged assistance in reviewing application requirements before the applications were formally submitted should not be considered as a breach of secrecy.
Instead, they should have been seen as part of her normal duties and competencies at work. This reasoning led him to refute the second part of the accusations which included abuse of power.
The lawyer recalled that the crime of breach of secrecy depends on intentionality and must produce benefits or prejudice to someone, highlighting that both intentionality and the benefits or losses from the act could not be proven in any way.
While calling for Batalha to be acquitted of all crimes, Leal also had time to criticize what he called an “awful addiction” of the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) and the Judiciary Police, which issued press statements on cases before the investigations concluded and before the suspects were accused of any crimes.
For Leal, this “bad culture” often results in enormous prejudice against the defendants and clashes with the essential right of “presumption of innocence.”
Giving an example, Leal said that when trying to use her credit card to pay the bill for a birthday celebration, Batalha was informed by the restaurant that the card had been rejected. According to the bank, she had been stopped from using the card as she was involved in corruption, despite this being unproven and a crime that she was not actually being accused of.
“For the banks, she had already been sentenced for a crime that she was never even accused of,” Leal said.
Also in yesterday’s court session, the lawyer of Miguel Ian Iat Chun, Jorge Ho, claimed that the whole accusation was unfounded and that the defendant should also be acquitted of all charges.
According to Ho, aside from misinterpreting IPIM’s procedures and purposes, the MP did not present any conclusive evidence of Ian’s alleged participation in a criminal association.
In fact, the defense lawyers for all defendants acknowledged that this criminal association could not exist as there was not any legal basis to sustain the theory.
Like Leal, Ho also mentioned that this case had caused Ian to lose his job and his family lost its income.
In the long sequence that followed, all the lawyers mentioned the lack of proof for the accusations. Highlights included Leong Mio Na, who is defending Ng Kuok Sao and Ieong Sok Chun, and Icília Berenguel, who is defending Angela Ip. They explained why the theories of the accusation were poorly substantiated and fell apart easily when tested.
Leong noted that Ng never founded any criminal organization and that the only relationship between Ng and other people accused of being part of the organization were simply normal relations between the boss, his wife and employees of the One Kin Construction Company, one of the companies Ng owns.
Lei Sin U, another lawyer, also insisted that the relationship between Ng, his wife Wu Sok Wah, and the employees were simple employment relationships where staff were obligated to fulfill tasks delegated by the boss.
Criticizing the way the prosecution insisted on the accusations despite the lack of proof, Lei said, “It seems that the CCAC investigators took their conclusions about what they found or hinted and then the MP just certified that without paying enough attention to the cases.”
Berenguel also referred to the “emptiness of accusations,” saying that over the past two months she assisted with surprise to the lack of confirmation of any of the array of accusations by the MP.

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