The Malaysian Insider
16 July 2015 7:00 AM
A former attorney-general has urged top government lawyer Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail to disassociate himself from the task force investigating the prime minister over the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, saying this will enhance public perception and integrity into the probe.
Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman’s views were also shared by lawyers who said Attorney-General Gani should not be part of the investigation or else his office would not be seen as being independent.
Gani currently heads the task force which is investigating the alleged irregularities in 1MDB and the RM2.67 billion allegedly channelled into Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts.
The task force also comprises the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and police.
Talib and the lawyers said Gani’s immediate disassociation from the task force would enhance public confidence and integrity over the three investigating bodies – police, MACC and Bank Negara – in executing their duties.
They also said the principle of check and balance between investigation agencies and the public prosecutor must be observed to ensure justice to all parties, including the public.
Talib said it was not desirable for Gani, who is also the public prosecutor, to be a member of the task force.
He said police, MACC and the central bank have wide investigative powers under applicable laws and experience to carry out their duties without supervision by the A-G.
“They should be allowed to investigate the way they think fit and submit findings for the consideration of the A-G or public prosecutor,” Talib told The Malaysian Insider.
Talib, who was A-G from 1980 and 1993, said it was then for the A-G to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to charge offenders.
“We have been observing this check-and-balance principle all these years and it is not desirable to disregard it to ensure justice for all,” said the 77-year-old.
Talib said this in response to questions whether it was appropriate to have the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and investigation agencies in the same task force.
Many were also unclear when the task force was established.
The task force gained prominence on July 4 when Gani said the A-GC, MACC, Bank Negara and police were investigating allegations by a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) expose that huge sums of money were transferred into Najib’s accounts at AmBank in Kuala Lumpur between 2013 and 2015.
Batu MP Tian Chua in a July 5 statement also said a Home Ministry’s written reply to his question in Parliament stated that police had completed investigation on 1MDB and the papers were submitted to the A-G’s Chambers on March 9.
Gani unveiled the existence of the task force at the AGC’s monthly assembly last October when he outlined its achievement over the past 3½ years.
During the speech, it was revealed that he formed the task force and was its chairman.
He said the task force was established due to the seriousness of money-laundering activities and as part of the two main thrusts of the government’s National Key Result Area (NKRA) to reduce crime and combat corruption.
Other members of the task force included the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), Royal Malaysian Customs (RMC), Immigration Department, Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Audit Department, Companies Commission of Malaysia, Cyber Security Malaysia and the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumer Affairs.
Lawyer S.N. Nair said Gani and the A-GC could not be part of any investigating team as this was not provided for in law.
He said under Article 145 (3) of the Federal Constitution, the A-G, who was also the public prosecutor, could decide whether to institute, conduct or discontinue any criminal case.
“The A-G cannot be part of the investigation or else his office will not be seen as independent,” he said, agreeing that Gani must disassociate himself to ensure the separation of powers between the prosecuting and investigating agencies remained.
Nair, a former police officer, said in Malaysia, the A-G and the public prosecutor was the same person unlike the United Kingdom.
“The A-G there is the legal officer and adviser to the government while the public prosecutor decides on prosecution without fear and favour.”
He said the A-G and public prosecutor’s position in Malaysia was in conflict and this was not good for public perception.
Nair said under the present circumstances, Gani had to get an independent prosecutor to go through the investigation papers and must also explain to the public if no charges were to be framed against offenders.
Lawyer Ragunath Kesavan said Gani has to grapple with public perception over the ongoing investigations since he was also the chief legal adviser to Najib’s government.
“Depending on the outcome of the investigation, the government’s battle to convince the public that everything was above board will go on until the next general election,” said the former president of the Malaysian Bar.
He said the current turmoil should pave the way for the government and federal legislators to separate the positions of the A-G, public prosecutor, and also provide the MACC prosecution powers to make the agency a truly independent body.
Najib has come under tremendous pressure following the 1MDB fiasco and this escalated with the WSJ expose.
The WSJ reported that US$681 million (RM2.6 billion) originating from Tanore Finance, a company in the British Virgin Islands, was deposited into Najib’s accounts in two transactions on March 21 and 25 in 2013, ahead of the general election in May.
Another sum of US$11.1 million originating from Finance Ministry-owned SRC International Sdn Bhd was moved in two tranches between December 2014 and February this year.
The task force has also frozen six accounts in relation to its investigation.
Najib has denied taking money for personal gain, but has not commented directly on the fund transfers to his accounts. – July 16, 2015.