Lawyers warn of public outcry if high-profile corruption cases dropped

Allegations have been made of a deal to drop charges against various MPs, including Najib Razak and Zahid Hamidi, in exchange for their support in the Dewan Rakyat. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: There will be public outcry against the government if the attorney-general (AG) decides to withdraw serious criminal charges against six Umno MPs, a lawyer warned.

Mohamed Rafique Rashid Ali said some of the cases were in the midst of trials and the public have been following them and learning about some damning evidence from various prosecution witnesses.

“There will also be a trust deficit in the leadership should charges be withdrawn in exchange for political support,” he said.

Rafique said this in response to an interview with Malaysiakini by PKR founding member Syed Husin Ali who believes Port Dickson MP Anwar Ibrahim would abide by a Pakatan Harapan decision not to cooperate with the Umno MPs to form a new government.

There is concern that the PKR president has to cut deals with Pekan MP Najib Razak, who was facing three corruption and money laundering related trials, to muster sufficient numbers in the Dewan Rakyat to become prime minister.

The belief was intensified by reports that Najib and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also facing graft charges, had allegedly written to the King to throw their support for Anwar.

However, Anwar on Tuesday maintained that no deals have been made with any MP facing charges in exchange for their support.

“What I assured them is that there is no political vendetta, but you must accept the due process, the rule of law and independence of the judiciary,” he said at a press conference.

Apart from Najib and Zahid, who is Bagan Datuk MP, others facing charges are Pontian MP Ahmad Maslan, Putrajaya MP Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Baling MP Abdul Azeez Rahim and Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar Radin.

Lawyer Syed Iskandar Syed Jaafar al-Mahdzar said under Article 145 (3) of the Federal Constitution, the AG, who is also the public prosecutor, had the discretion to institute and withdraw charges.

He said the integrity of the AG’s office would also be called into question if high profile prosecutions were discontinued following a change in the country’s leadership.

Lawyer A Srimurugan said a public backlash was imminent if two recent decisions made by the public prosecutor were used as indicators.

“The public and civil society were up in arms when the prosecution withdrew 46 corruption and money laundering charges against former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman in June.

“The month before that, a Sessions Court granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to Hollywood producer Riza Aziz, who was facing five counts of money laundering amounting to US$248 million,” Srimurugan said, referring to Najib’s stepson, who had allegedly used funds linked to 1MDB.

He added that even the dropping of a corruption case against former Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng when PH was in power in 2018 gave the impression that all prosecutorial decisions were dictated by the powers that be.

In the 1MDB audit report trial, Najib is charged with abuse of power in order to obtain immunity from legal action and causing amendments to the finalised 1MDB audit report prior to it being tabled before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Najib is also facing 25 charges of abuse of power and money laundering over alleged 1MDB funds amounting to RM2.28 billion deposited in his personal bank accounts.

Najib and former Treasury secretary-general Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah are also facing six charges of CBT involving RM6.6 billion of government funds but the trial will begin next year.

Zahid is currently facing 12 charges of criminal breach of trust, eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering, totalling RM117 million in the High Court.

Meanwhile, he is facing another 40 graft charges in relation to the foreign visa system (VLN) though the trial for that case has yet to begin.

Tengku Adnan, who is Umno treasurer, will know on Nov 17 whether he will be acquitted or convicted over a RM2 million corruption case.

On Nov 23, Tengku Adnan’s second corruption case involving RM1 million will begin.

The trial of former Tabung Haji chairman Azeez and his brother, Latif, started in August and three witnesses have been called.

Azeez was charged with three counts of bribery involving RM5.2 million linked to road projects in Perak and Kedah, and nine counts of money laundering involving nearly RM140 million.

Ahmad Maslan was charged with money laundering by not stating his real income on the RM2 million he received from Najib in his 2013 income tax return form.

The Umno secretary-general is also charged with giving false statements to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Bung Moktar, a former non-executive chairman of Felcra was charged with three counts of taking a bribe amounting to RM3 million from public mutual investment agents through his wife Zizie Ezette.