Local Politics

Accepting foreign money per se not an offence

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – November 7, 2016: Despite the strong reactions to the allegation that the Malaysiakini online news portal and non-governmental organisations had received money from foreign entities, they appear to have not broken any law.

This is the opinion of lawyers contacted by The Mole.

The simple “no” is due to the fact that Malaysia doesn’t have any law that makes it a crime for an individual or organisation to accept money from foreign sources, including from the likes of American billionaire George Soros, a man former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had accused of engineering the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

“There is no case,” said lawyer Khairul Azam. “Their lawyers must have properly advised them to do it (accept the fund) in a way that does not violate our laws.

“And because of that there is no ground to charge Malaysiakini for allegedly accepting money from Soros,” remarked Khairul.

The allegation linking Soros to Malaysiakini surfaced recently after whistleblower website, DC Leaks, released documents claiming that he had been channeling a huge amount of money to finance the portal.

DC Leaks claimed that the portal, along with Merdeka Centre and the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih), were heavily funded by the Soros-linked Open Society Foundation.

It was speculated that the donations were given with the intention of toppling a democratically elected government.

This claim led the police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to start investigating.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak said the outcome of the probe will be handed to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the sole agency that can decide to prosecute.

The AG can invoke the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act but so far there is nothing the portal and NGOs may have done, maybe with the exception of Bersih, to point towards these offences.

Another lawyer Aidil Khalid however says it is a crime for any individual or entity to receive or be involved with money that would be used for something illegal.

Activities against the principle of parliamentary democracy are, according to Aidil, an offence under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act.

“Therefore monies used to fund such a movement may be deemed to be financing such an illegal activity.”

However, whether anything Malaysiakini has done could be said to fall within the above definition, says Aidil, is something that needs to be proven in court.

It is nothing new for Malaysiakini to accept foreign funds.

It is stated by its website that, apart from its founders’ seed capital, Malaysiakini started in 1999 with a USD$100,000 grant from Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance.

Since then the company has expanded to add an online video arm, KiniTv.

If indeed accepting foreign funds is an offence, it is perplexing why no action has been taken against a portal that has been around for 17 years.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.