The Kuala Lumpur High Court today ordered Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng to pay RM2 million to MonSpace (M) Sdn Bhd founder Jessy Lai Cha Suang and the company for defamation.
Judge Akhtar Tahir made the decision after allowing a suit by Lai and MonSpace as the plaintiffs against Lim, the defendant.
Akhtar ordered Lim to pay a sum of RM500,000 and RM1 million to Lai and the company respectively, as well as aggravated damages of RM500,000 to both plaintiffs besides cost of RM250,000.
The judge also ordered Lim to make a public apology in all vernacular newspapers as well as on social media within seven days of the judgement.
In his brieft judgment, Akhtar said the court found that the plaintiffs had proven their claims of defamation against the defendant, and that his statements had tarnished the image and reputation of the plaintiffs.
He said in the statement of claim, the plaintiff had mentioned five instances in the statements by the defendant which were claimed to be defamatory.
The judge said the defendant did not deny making the statements or the publication, and that it was also clear from the statements that they referred to both the plaintiffs.
"The statements clearly connote that the plaintiffs had bribed senior government officials and were carrying out illegal activities as well as cheating 19 Chinese nationals," he said when delivering today's decision online.
Akhtar added that Lim should have stopped at making the necessary reports to the enforcement authorities for them to investigate the allegations.
"Instead, in the court's view, the defendant went beyond his duty, not only as an MP, even as a person, and acted like a vigilante against the plaintiffs in making these accusations.
"The defendant should have verified the facts before making such serious accusations. In this case, the defendant did not call any witnesses who were allegedly the source of his information.
"As an MP, it was his duty to verify information, not only as an MP, even as a normal person you must verify information. The defendant as an MP especially cannot be trigger happy and shoot from the hip," he said.
Akhtar said the court also noted that the defendant took to the streets with the 19 Chinese national to protest against the plaintiffs.
"This was also unwarranted... the defendant was given an opportunity to redeem himself and during the case management of this case, the plaintiffs only asked for an apology to be made, but the defendant failed to do that," he added.
In the suit filed in June 2019, Lai said Lim had claimed that she was running an illegal business and had cheated Chinese investors. She said the MP’s statements, published in the English and Chinese media, had implied that she was a dishonest person.
She said Lim had made the statements in May 2017 and November 2018 when he took a group of individuals, purportedly MonSpace investors, to her office and lodged police reports against her.
She claimed that Lim’s statements had pressured the authorities, including the police, Bank Negara Malaysia and the domestic trade and consumer affairs ministry, to take action against her.
Lawyer Ivanpal Singh Grewal represented Lai and the company while counsel Guok Ngek Seong acted for Lim.