PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal today allowed lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s application for the release of his passport to travel to Australia for work purposes.
A three-member bench chaired by Ahmadi Asnawi said Shafee, who is facing criminal charges here, is not a flight risk.
“The applicant needs to be in Australia as the client there deserves the counsel of his choice,” Ahmadi said in the unanimous ruling.
Others on the bench were Rhodzariah Bujang and Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah.
Ahmadi said the prosecution had not proven that Shafee was a flight risk.
The lawyer, who is facing two charges of money laundering totalling RM9.5 million, made the application to be in Sydney between June 23 and July 1.
He has pledged to return the travel document to the High Court on July 3.
On May 14, the High Court in Kuala Lumpur dismissed Shafee’s application for the release of his passport in order to attend to a client who was slapped with a drug trafficking charge in Australia.
Judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah said Shafee’s presence in Australia, requested in a letter dated May 13, was merely to assist in the case.
“The applicant’s presence at the detention facility is for the purpose of translating the Malay language. He could send a representative from his firm.
“It is evident therefore that the applicant’s presence is merely to assist as there are Australian solicitors on record,” he said.
He added that Shafee had been told to surrender his passport in the first place due to the serious nature of the charges against him.
“The possibility of a risk of flight cannot be discounted. So the application for the release of passport is dismissed,” he said.
On Sept 13 last year, Shafee claimed trial at the Sessions Court here to the two money laundering charges. He was freed after posting bail of RM1 million.
The court also ordered that his passport be impounded.
Shafee’s lawyer Harvinderjit Singh told the bench today that Shafee was not a flight risk and that he had travelled overseas four times after the charges and returned home.
“He has three wives and all of them are here,” he said, adding that the client in Australia needs legal advice on whether to contest the charge or enter into a plea bargain.
Deputy public prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz said Shafee had no reason to be in Australia as the client also has a local lawyer.
Afzainizam later told reporters he would have to obtain instruction from the attorney-general before deciding on the next course of action.