Ex-arbitration centre director protected from prosecution, says lawyer

Former Asian International Arbitration Centre director N Sundra Rajoo. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: A former director of the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC) here must enjoy immunity from prosecution for acts done while in office, the High Court heard today.

Lawyer K Shanmuga, who is appearing for N Sundra Rajoo, said his client was a high officer under the International Organisation (Privileges and Immunity) Act and must be accorded protection.

He also questioned why Wisma Putra asked for a waiver from the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), the parent body of AIAC, to file charges against Sundra.

AALCO, in its reply to the government, had rejected the request and instead wrote to Wisma Putra to respect and uphold the law and agreement.

Meanwhile, lawyer Abdul Shukor Ahmad, who appeared with Shanmuga, submitted that a ruling against Sundra’s judicial review application would also have far-reaching implications for diplomatic officers serving outside Malaysia.

Senior federal counsel S Narkunavathy, who appeared for Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the foreign minister, said AALCO’s letter was of no value.

“As far as we are concerned, the applicant loses all protection when charged with criminal offences,” she said.

Judge Mariana Yahya has reserved judgment for Dec 31.

Sundra, who was head of AIAC from 2010 until late last year, had sought a declaration that he is entitled to protection for acts and omissions in his official capacity.

He also sought a declaration that immunity cannot be waived under the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, and that neither the current acting director nor any officer from the centre can strip him of this protection.

Sundra claimed to enjoy immunity as the centre was set up in 1978, following diplomatic correspondence between Malaysia and AALCO.

On March 26, Sundra was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust amounting to RM1 million.

The offences were allegedly committed at the AIAC premises on Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin here between Aug 17 and Dec 8 last year.

According to the defence, the money was spent on books for distribution to promote the AIAC, with approval from AALCO.

AALCO had strongly protested and disassociated itself from the charges on the grounds that they are void, groundless and illegal under the 2013 Host Country Agreement.