MACC must conduct probes discreetly, say former AG, lawyer

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PETALING JAYA: A former attorney-general and an ex-Malaysian Bar president said the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) must conduct their investigations discreetly to avoid the naming and shaming of suspects and witnesses.

However, both acknowledged the anti-graft agency has wide investigation powers that include the power to arrest and seize documents.

Arrest and seizure of items for investigation must be done discreetly, says former AG Abu Talib.
Arrest and seizure of items for investigation must be done discreetly, says former AG Abu Talib.

Ex-AG Abu Talib Othman said the MACC should act based on reliable information and reports made to them.

“However, any arrest and seizure of items for investigation must be done discreetly,” he told FMT.

Abu Talib, who was AG between 1980 and 1993, said it took time before suspects were prosecuted as the decision was up to the public prosecutor.

“The job of the MACC is to investigate and collect evidence and it is for the public prosecutor or his deputy to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to frame charges,” he said.

He said separating investigation and prosecution was an effective check and balance in the Malaysian legal system.

Abu Talib said this in response to the arrest of former Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) chairman Mohamed Isa Samad and Penang executive councillor Phee Boon Poh for alleged corruption.

Isa, who is also a former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar, was held under MACC custody for five days from Aug 16.

He was arrested the day before at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya after going there to give a statement on the purchase of Park City Hotel, London, by Felda Investment Corporation (FIC), a Felda subsidiary.

The MACC also raided his houses in Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, and his office in the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) where he is the current acting chairman.

Phee is being investigated for allegedly writing two letters to the Seberang Perai Municipal Council urging it to refrain from taking action against an illegal carbon filter processing factory in Sungai Lembu, Bukit Mertajam.

He was arrested on Aug 11, together with the factory owner, 37, and his father, 70, who started the plant about 30 years ago.

They were released on Aug 14 after the High Court set aside their remand orders.

Ragunath questioned if all those who were arrested were later charged for any offence.
Ragunath questioned if all those who were arrested were later charged for any offence.

Ragunath Kesavan said the MACC must explain if it had a policy to inform the media on an impending arrest and seizure.

He said high profile investigations had its defects as others related to the case would be on the alert and might destroy documentary evidence.

He also questioned if all those who were arrested were later charged for any offence.

Ragunath, who was Bar president from 2009-2011, said the public expectation was that MACC investigations should be a low-key affair.

“In our criminal justice system, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law,” he said, adding the anti-graft agency should review its policy of getting into a publicity blitz at the expense of suspects and witnesses.

He said where possible, the MACC should stop the practice of detaining those allegedly involved in a crime for investigation purposes.

“Any move to get a remand order is only necessary if the suspects could tamper with evidence or were a flight risk,” he said, adding that investigators should strive to collect all evidence without the need to hold anyone under their custody.