Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column by Aziz Hassan
THERE has been much excitement and hope in the last couple of years relating to the many arrests by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, with many of the more recent cases involving obscene amounts of money and countless luxury items.
At the lower level, many of the cases involve officers of enforcement agencies, with the dirty money varying between a few hundred thousand ringgit and several hundred thousand. A few go beyond that, to a few million.
In recent months the cases alleged to have been committed involve cash, real estate, luxury cars, watches and handbags amounting to many millions, with the cases in Sabah leaving everything else far, far behind in terms of value.
How the ones accused managed to move around freely for so long despite the obvious luxuries they showered on themselves and their families remains a mystery.
You can’t hide a mansion from the public; so too six or seven flashy cars, branded handbags the wives carry with them to dinners and kenduris plus the watches and jewellery they wear.
No one should feel sorry for the corrupt, pure and simple, although the ones to suffer the consequences include family members. Then again they are also the first to benefit and enjoy the good life from the dirty money.
But much as there has been some success, the fight against corruption had seen many failures.
True that former Selangor mentri besar Khir Toyo was given a year’s jail over the purchase of a bungalow at well below the market price from someone who had dealings with the state government. Also true that former flamboyant corporate figure Abdullah Ang was sentenced to eight years jail in December 1986 for criminal breach of trust.
On the flip side were the acquittals of former transport ministers Tun Dr. Ling Liong Sik and Tan Sri Chan Kong Choy in the Port Klang Free Zone case, followed by the acquittal also of a former general manager of the Port Klang Authority O.C. Phang in November last year of CBT totaling RM254 million. She was discharged almost seven years after being charged when the Attorney-General’s Chambers agreed to a representation by her lawyer.
It was on similar grounds that former president and chief executive officer of Sime Darby, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubair Murshid, was acquitted of CBT and fraud in September last year, about four years after being charged.
The most ridiculous case took place over a period of one year from September 2014.
Given the number of officers involved and the amount of money the government was reported to have lost as a result of corruption, the press went to town in a very big way, with the arrests being given front page treatment for about a week.
In all over 30 Customs officers and others were rounded up, including two state directors.
The cases went to trial but suddenly, in September 2015, the prosecution simply told the court that it was withdrawing all charges against the 19 officers on trial, including Kuala Lumpur director Datuk Mohd. Isa Endot.
It can be safely assumed that no reasons were offered by the prosecution in open court for the decision because otherwise the press would have reported it.
No one asked any questions later and thus no explanation was given by the MACC.
If you wanted the biggest anti-climax for the year, this was it.
Those familiar with how the Malaysian system works know that for a case to go to court, the AGC must give the go-ahead. To come to that decision, the AGC must satisfy itself that everything in the investigation papers satisfies all the requirements and rule of thumb for a case to succeed in court.
But if there are gaps everywhere in the IPs, then the papers must be referred back to the investigators; it’s as simple as that.
However, if the AGC decides to allow a case to be prosecuted despite the many holes in the investigation, we can only conclude that the sole prosecuting authority of the country is incompetent and has done a bad job.
The cases that brought Ling, Chan, Phang and Zubair to court were during the time of Abdul Gani Patail as attorney-general.
So too the murder cases of Norita Shamsuddin at an apartment in December 2003 and 14-year-old Chinese national Xu Jian Huang at his uncle’s home in 2004. Many will remember how badly the investigators did their work and yet both went to trial, which resulted in an acquittal of the accused in the former when the apex court agreed with the decisions of the two lower courts.
In the latter, first accused Koh Kim Teck, the boy’s uncle, was reported to have gone missing from the time the case went for appeal after the prosecution had lost the first round.
It is hoped that Gani’s successor Tan Sri Apandi Ali will do much better because arresting a bribery suspect and putting him on trial means absolutely nothing until you win a conviction.
But in the meantime the MACC also needs to explain what has happened to the case of a state forestry director that was brought to court in 2010 but has since remained quiet, forgotten almost.