Glenn Knight: “Koon Swan had been wrongly convicted!”



I received the book, Glenn Knight – The Prosecutor last Saturday as a gift. It was personally autographed by Glenn Knight, addressed to me. It is one of the best books I’ve read so far.



The book written by Singapore’s first director of Commercial Affairs Department and former prosecutor is a gripping read, well organized with details of past cases Glenn Knight dealt with. In the past, some of the more sensational cases – like the Adrian Lim murders – were widely reported in the press. The book gives an insider view of those involved in the successful prosecution of the culprits. It is rare to get such a perspective of the legal process all the way from the police investigation to the Attorney General Chambers and to the courtroom drama leading to the conviction of the culprits.

Of all the cases mentioned, the 1985 Pan-El case is the most controversial even till today. In his book, Glenn Knight dropped the bombshell that the then promising and outstanding Chinese leader in Malaysia, Tan Koon Swan was “wrongly convicted.” That means that Tan Koon Swan was not responsible for the collapse of Pan-El leading to (among other things) a three-day closure of the stock exchanges in Singapore and Malaysia.

If Tan Koon Swan was not derailed by the Pan-El debacle which resulted in his conviction and leading to his bankruptcy, ultimately ruining his political career forever, Ling Liong Sik wouldn’t stand a chance. Things would have been very different. Tan Koon Swan would have been a minister in Malaysia today. Is it heaven’s will? They say man proposes but heaven disposes!

Glenn Knight writes ..

“This was a most surprising conclusion as it indicated that not only had I erred, but that four other distinguished judges including Justice Lai, who first heard the Koon Swan case, and his predecessor Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin had also got it wrong. Chief Justice Yong concluded that it was wrong to convict anyone for stealing money if the wrong charge had been used to begin with. As he was considered to be a good judge, everyone had to accept that Koon Swan had been wrongly convicted and that I was forced to accept that I was wrong too. I also had to accept that if I had erred, then senior judges like Justice Frederick Arthur Chua in the Tay Choo Wah case as well as the judges involved in Koon Swan’s case, were also wrong. The judgement shattered my belief in our legal system. (The Pan-El Debacle Page 163)”

When I was reading through the past cases mentioned in the book, I can’t help thinking of the pivotal role played by brilliant lawyers as defense counsels. If you possess influence or can afford expensive skillful lawyers to defend you, your chances of acquittal – or a slap on the wrist – are better. Otherwise, you are a goner right from the beginning! Two persons charged with the same crime can end up with different punishments, one can be jailed, the other can get off with a light fine.

What else is new? With tons of money you can hire the best lawyers, pay the best for the best medical care and live longer! If you don’t have lots of money, you better not get charged in court or get warded in hospital. That’s the sad reality of life. The pauper is always the born loser.

In my previous life, I have heard a lot about Glenn Knight. He was a legend, a man whose reputation preceded him. I’ve met him many times when we were serving different bosses but we have never had the opportunity to speak with each other. Only on one occasion (three years ago) at the wedding of Lohcifer’s daughter, did I finally have the chance to enjoy a conversation with this great Singaporean.


This book is a must read for all lawyers, police officers and those in the law enforcement agencies. It’s also a great read for all Singaporeans and Malaysians as well as fans of TV programs like Crime Watch.

Tan Koon Swan ‘wrongly prosecuted’
Posted on 10 September 2012 – 09:27pm
Last updated on 11 September 2012 – 08:37am
Kong See Hoh
KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 11, 2012): The admission by former top Singapore public prosecutor that he wrongly prosecuted businessman and former MCA president Tan Koon Swan in the Pan El Industries case in 1985 made top news in all the major Chinese papers yesterday.
Glenn Knight said he felt extremely pained for putting Tan behind bars on discovering his mistake years later, and he had since apologised to Tan.
Tan was slapped with 15 charges of fraud, cheating, stock market manipulation and abetment of criminal breach of trust (CBT) in the collapse of Pan El. He was sentenced to 18 months jail and fined S$500,000 (RM1.2 million) upon conviction in 1986.
The case and its outcome not only changed the fate of Tan and MCA but also greatly impacted on the Malaysian Chinese community and political scene. Tan quit as MCA president following his conviction.
Pan El’s collapse also caused the Singapore and Malaysian stock markets to halt trading for three days. The high-profile Pan El case resulted in Knight being awarded the Public Administration Gold Medal.
In his just-released book, “Glenn Knight The Prosecutor”, Knight, 63, talked of the many high-profile cases he handled, as well as his admission of the wrongful prosecution of Tan.
In the book, he said, in 1996, a case similar to Tan’s came up for hearing and Chief Justice Yong Pung How “concluded that I was wrong to charge Tan for the offence”.
The judge was of the opinion that the section Knight had charged Tan with was wrong, for they could not charge a person for stealing from a company because as a director, it was not a breach of the law in that sense.
Knight admitted his mistake in the book and said he apologised to Tan in 2010.
He said Tan was very emotional on hearing the matter.
Meanwhile, Nanyang Siang Pau said Tan, who is currently overseas, is taking a very cautious stand regarding the development, and would not make any comment for the moment.
In 1991, Knight himself was charged with CBT and later jailed in Singapore.


Read related article here – AGC’s response.

Read another perspective from a popular blogger here.

Read Tan Koon Swan’s brief write-up here.

PS: Today is also the 72th birthday of Mr Tan Koon Swan. I wish him good health. May he live till a hundredth.


About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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16 Responses to Glenn Knight: “Koon Swan had been wrongly convicted!”

  1. kuaychap_kia says:

    The Attorney General in Singapore already clarified that Tan Koon Swan was NOT wrongly convicted, contrary to the book. That was more than 2 weeks ago. I think you got to check with a good lawyer whether there is any implication for you to mention the subject of this blog here, this way

    • I’ve already read that response you mentioned. It is also on my post. The link is there. It shows that u didn’t click the hyper links at end of my post. I based on what the book says. It’s up to you to judge. The facts are there.

  2. kuaychap_kia says:

    Wa liah eh, luckily I am not your friend. You get him autograph your book, you already know the fact, yet you chose to describe the subject of your post that way… don’t sabo him leh.

    • I’m quoting what he said. By quoting his exact words did I “sabo” him? When I spoke to the author only one time in a dinner you imply that we are frens? Did you read carefully? First, you claim that I better consult a lawyer for publishing this post, now you say I sabo my fren. It really reflects on your mentality.

      • kuaychap_kia says:

        Where did I write that he is YOUR “fren”? I only say ” I ” (me, Kuaychapkia) not your friend. Now is your turn to read carefully.

        Since it is true that Mr Knight is not your fren, so you only asked for his autograph – ok nothing wrong. But since you obtain his autograph after the Attorney General clarification, would it be fair to “quote what he said” when he didn’t personally say to you? Besides, you are only quoting from what he has written and published which was now already corrected by the AG what? In that case before you publish in your blog you should have ask him first what, otherwise you are implying that he maintain his position, which might not be the case today. That’s why I say this could potentially “sabo” him.

        Then some more, the links you put are Malaysia news wor! At least put Singapore news lah. By the way, I already give you one Singapore link to the news.

        • I say you “implied!” I didn’t say you said. I told you already that the link you provided is already in my post. There are few links to the story. AG might have clarified which I also include in my post on the first link. Why are you denying this fact?
          I’m blogging about his book. You mean I can’t blog about his book whatever AGC may say. So we shld not mention this book anymore? Who is right or which version is correct let readers decide. Who are you to decide?

          • kuaychap_kia says:

            Wah…. angry liao. Yes you are right, it’s your Blog, not mine. It’s up to you what you want to write…. ok lah, I cabut now. Drive safely ah, bye.

          • I was pointing to you the facts only. No need to be angry.

  3. patriot says:

    Sounds and seems like the legal
    fraternity is liked a farce in days
    past. Top judges were wrong, prosecutor was wrong and that means the whole investigation was also wrong.

    How can there be so many incharged
    of upholding Justice went wrong? The
    System must be fraud with full of
    nonsense made possible by shenanigans.

    Is it still the same today???


  4. Moronkiller says:

    People who comment on blogs, this one is for you, especially kuay_chap kia:
    Have you read the book, kuaychap_kia? Do you know the facts? And I mean all the facts? Get your facts right first before shooting from the hip while hiding behind an idiotic pseudonym, you ball-less loser. Know the context. Know ALL the facts not the bones “cannot-admit-they-are-wrong” authority figures throw at you. Above all, be civil. I am amazed that Gintai even allow your nonsensical crap comments to permeate all his posts, not just this one. Don’t you have a life, kua-chap kia? Don’t you have anything else better to do? Because there were two differing High Court judgments on the same issue, the matter should have been referred to the Court of Appeal and NOT to you for clarification. Who the effing hell are you, after all? After CJ Yong’s judgment in 1996, nobody has been charged since then under that particular section. Do you REALLY know why? Can you muster all your intellect (of which you obviously have pitiful little from evidential indications so far seen) understand what this REALLY REALLY means? Perhaps you should stop stuffing your face with kuaychap; that’s pig’s entrails my dear loser friend. Try some fish, it’s said to be good for the brains. Even fish your cat discard would do you some good. Yes, kuay_chap kia, you of all keyboard scumbags certainly could do with some brains, my dear kuay_chap kia. Plus on a weekday during office hours you are doing this, you must be a really productive person huh? Pity you don’t work for me. Or you will be guillotined. As for me, I eliminate morons for a living, I work 24/7. Please, kuay_chap kia, GET THE HELL OUT OF MY ELITE FACE, WILL YOU???!!! Consider yourself duly warned.

  5. patriot says:

    As Tan Koon Swan is still alive.

    Will those involved in his case
    redeem justice to him and his

    It can still be done. Or is it not?


    • If it happens in the US or UK, they will look into it seriously. It shld be referred to the Final Court of Appeal to decide on it’s different interpretations. It’s a pity that Privy Council is abolished here. Those Lord judges could have been consulted. I’m worried that if we discuss this issue further like any ordinary non-trained in legal issues, we may be cited for contempt of the court. Better stop here than get charged for contempt and we ended up in court! “Contempt” can mean anything. It’s very wide and vague.

  6. patriot says:

    Questions that I raised here are only based on the information from this thread as blogged by Gintai. And my apology for a typo mistake for the word ‘reddem’. It was ‘redeem’ that was intended.


  7. ape@kinjioleaf says:

    Ape base his opinion on what he read here… only.
    It’s not about whether Tan KS was guilty or innocent. It’s about whether Tan is guilty of the charges laid on him.
    Say supposing ape beat the crap out of a person at the MRT platform. The person died… because he fell onto the tracks and got run over by the train. Can ape be charged for murder? When there is no evidence to suggest ape wanted him dead and witnesses testified that ape beat him but did not push him onto the tracks, is ape guilty of murder? Even the video footage showed that ape did not push him. Most likely the court would rule that ape is acquitted of murder. Does this mean ape is innocent? But if the charge is one of man slaughter or perhaps causing grievous hurt, perhaps then ape would more likely to be behind bars.

    I do agree with gintai though that the rich can get better lawyers to defend them or reduce their sentence by arguing on the technicalities of the law. But this is where ape hopes our lawyers here can do more pro bono (is that what they call charity lawyers) works for the poor.

  8. Expensive price says:

    Commend yr restrain – expecting a cascade of yr famous expletives – everyone is entitled to a view. All I know is we got CLOB(bed) after that even when all Malaysian shares were frozen for a long long time. Now everybody has to live with history – makers and actors alike. Regrets? We all have a few. Let’s move on – there r new challenges to face

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