Bar queries legality of task force’s action over Najib’s arrest, prosecution

Malaysian Bar president George Varughese says a person can only be arrested by the police or MACC. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Bar has criticised the 1MDB Special Task Force for issuing a statement announcing former prime minister Najib Razak’s arrest and that he would be charged in court tomorrow.

Its president George Varughese said the task force had no legal standing on such matters.

“The Malaysian Bar is shocked and troubled by the press statement issued today by the 1MDB task force announcing that Najib Razak was arrested at 2.35pm in connection with SRC International Sdn Bhd and that the former prime minister will be charged on July 4, 2018 at 8.30am at the Kuala Lumpur Court,” he said in a statement.

SRC is a former 1MDB subsidiary now placed under the finance ministry.

Varughese said an arrest could only be put into effect by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or the police.

He said the task force was also not in a position to decide whether Najib would be charged or when he was to be charged.

“It therefore begs the following questions on whether the task force is legally empowered to order the arrest and to charge Najib,” he said.

The task force’s statement was signed by its four members. They are former attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, former MACC chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed, current MACC chief commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull and former police special branch deputy director Abdul Hamid Bador.

Najib was arrested by MACC at his home in Taman Duta.

Meanwhile, lawyer SN Nair said only the attorney-general (AG) cum public prosecutor Tommy Thomas, who would reportedly lead the prosecution against Najib, was the rightful authority to issue such a statement.

“Thomas should not be seen as abdicating his power and authority as only the public prosecutor could frame charges against an accused person,” he told FMT.

Nair said it would also be unlawful for anyone else to perform the function of the AG.

The task force’s role and function in investigations and prosecutions over the 1MDB scandal has recently been queried by lawyers.