Judge queries George Tan absence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 June, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 June, 1996, 12:00am

A High Court judge was involved in an explosive confrontation yesterday with the top London lawyer who wants him to pull out of a major fraud trial.

Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore barred Anthony Scrivener QC, from questioning a doctor who is treating his client, former Carrian boss George Tan Soon-gin.

On three occasions, the judge ordered Mr Scrivener to sit down when he leapt to his feet in an attempt to address the doctor.

The judge refused to listen to Mr Scrivener's attempt to apply for the hearing to continue in the absence of Tan.

He hit back by accusing the judge of acting as prosecution counsel when quizzing the doctor.

'Am I allowed to cross-examine at all?' he asked.

'No, sit down,' said the judge.

The clash followed an application by Mr Scrivener for the judge to withdraw from the case.

He accused Mr Justice Stuart-Moore of going beyond his powers to oppress, harass and demoralise the defence.

The judge had refused to allow Tan, who has a heart condition, to be excused from court during preliminary proceedings.

Yesterday, Tan, 62, failed to attend and the judge was handed a certificate from a doctor saying he was not fit to be in court.

Mr Justice Stuart-Moore halted proceedings until the doctor could be questioned.

The judge asked him whether he was aware that Tan had previously faked illness. Dr Cheng Hing-ming said Tan had complained of chest pains after appearing in court on Tuesday.

He feared it might have been a relapse in his condition, which could lead to a heart attack.

Dr Cheng said he was conducting tests to establish Tan's condition. He could even be wired up while in court so his health could be monitored.

The judge blocked attempts by Mr Scrivener to intervene, telling him to 'just sit down'. He refused to let him question the doctor about the contents of a medical report on Tan. The judge said the material was irrelevant.

Mr Scrivener said he would add this to the list of reasons why the judge should remove himself. The case was adjourned until tomorrow when the results of the tests on Tan should be known.

The judge must rule on whether to continue with the trial, due to start on September 2.

Tan faces charges of conspiracy to defraud, corruption and false accounting involving US$560 million. The allegations arise out of secret loans allegedly made to the Carrian Group by Bumiputra Malaysia Finance.