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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why the delay in charging ex-Umno aide with graft, lawyers ask A-G

Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who is also public prosecutor, has a moral duty to explain to the public if he had decided to drop charges against two individuals linked to the ruling elite, say lawyers. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 31, 2014.Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, who is also public prosecutor, has a moral duty to explain to the public if he had decided to drop charges against two individuals linked to the ruling elite, say lawyers. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, July 31, 2014.
It has been almost six months since the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission completed its probe into a former political secretary accused of misappropriating RM1.1 million from three foundations set up to help the poor.
Investigators handed over the file to the Attorney-General's Chambers but from then until today, there has been no word on the case, leading several lawyers to question why.
The lawyers said any delay in prosecuting any individual would cast serious aspersion on the government's efforts to combat corruption among those linked to the ruling elite.
They said this in response to delays in charging the former Umno political aide and a company director with corruption.
Lawyer Datuk Baljit Sidhu, who has been following the case, said MACC began operations against the two in September last year.
In February, the investigation papers were handed to the A-G's Chambers but the papers were returned to MACC for further investigation. But it is learnt that the papers were re-sent to chambers shortly later.
"The A-G now has to make a decision whether to press charges against the suspects or drop the case because of insufficient evidence," Baljit said.
He said it would be "good prosecution practice" if Gani would offer an explanation if had decided not to prosecute.
"All criminal cases are of public interest and the A-G is morally obliged to explain if he had decided not to pursue the matter further since it also involved an individual linked to a senior politician.”
Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen said questions had been raised as to the long delay in charging the suspects when MACC had completed its probe.
"This undue delay has once again raised the question whether there has been political interference or special treatment accorded when it comes to personalities linked to the ruling party," he said.
Paulsen said this was the type of case the A-G must act swiftly and decisively in order to restore public confidence in MACC and the criminal justice system.
MACC began its probe last September when the former political secretary to a prominent politician was picked up for questioning for allegedly misappropriating funds for the poor under the government's 1Azam (Akhiri Zaman Miskin) programme.
The former political aide and a director of one of the foundations were linked to the investigation after funds from the 1Azam foundations were allegedly diverted for political purposes.
MACC had also seized 10 luxury vehicles belonging to one of the suspects, including a Toyota Alphard, Golf GTI, Toyota Vellfire and Toyota Camry.
1Azam programme is a government initiative under the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
Both men were expected to be charged in February but at the 11th hour were released on RM50,000 bail each.
Following this, the MACC Prevention Advisory Panel, led by its chairman Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar, met Gani to seek an explanation over the delay in charging the duo.
Gani said the case needed to be studied rigorously before the two could be prosecuted.
MACC later said the investigation papers were reverted to the commission to collect evidence with the view to framing principal and alternative charges against the duo.
It is understood that the case is related to the detention of Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim, the former political secretary to former women, family and community development minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who confirmed in September that he was being investigated by MACC.
Suhaimi had said that he was investigated for allegedly misappropriating funds meant for the poor under the 1Azam programme, adding that at least seven other ministry officials were called in.
"I have nothing to hide. Yes, I was arrested but the information published in blogs and online portals were not entirely true," he had said.
Reports stated that MACC seized 10 luxury vehicles from Suhaimi, but he denied that they belonged to him.
"Those vehicles are not mine," said the 54-year-old businessman,a former assemblyman in Benta, Pahang.

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