Withdrawal of charges fails to pass the smell test

Photo: Malay Mail

The process is simple. Whichever tool you use, either by counting ice-cream sticks (as we did in our pre-school days), by mental arithmetic or with an electronic calculator, the result of adding two and two is always four.

But the answer to the same arithmetic question provided by the MACC and by extension, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), is 3.99.
In addition, there’s a game of “before” and “after” being played out by the principals involved in perhaps an imaginary parody of “Who wants to be a millionaire?”

Didn’t catch the drift? The explanation given for the withdrawal of 29 bribery charges against former Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) board of directors member, Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid, in modern lingo amounts to the same – it does not compute.

Last Wednesday, Malaysiakini quoted a Bernama report saying: “His counsel Hasnal Rezua Merican, when contacted, said the prosecution informed the court of the withdrawal of the 29 charges during case proceedings before Sessions Court judge Suzana Hussin on May 21.

“Actually, the date (May 21) was set for the continuation of the case hearing but the prosecution informed the court on withdrawing all the charges against the accused.”

Quite strange that a decision made almost four months ago only surfaced last week, but it’s a moot point.

“This came about after the MACC investigated the defence’s statement under Section 62 of the MACC Act and was satisfied that all transactions made as stated in the charges were advances that had been fully repaid.,” Hasnal was quoted as saying.

[Section 62 states: Once delivery of documents by the prosecution pursuant to Section 51a of the Criminal Procedure Code has taken place, the accused shall, before commencement of the trial, deliver the following documents to the prosecution:
(a) a defence statement setting out in general terms the nature of the defence and the matters on which the accused takes issue with the prosecution, with reasons; and
(b) a copy of any document which would be tendered as part of the evidence for the defence.]

Before and after

The MACC attempted to placate an angry public and in a statement yesterday explained: “Based on new findings (obtained) through Noor Ehsanuddin’s new (defence) statement, the accused successfully proved that he had paid back the sum in question BEFORE (emphasis is the writer’s) the start of the (initial) investigation. A key witness also confirmed the matter (money) as advances.”

Now, now, please do tell us that the MACC is not giving ideas to the corrupt and the dishonest that if they return the dirty money once they get a whiff of an investigation, they can get away scot-free!

Please do also tell us that a bribe, a kickback, a back-hander, or whatever you call it, remains a bribe and returning it does not absolve one from being prosecuted.

What is more intriguing is that the MACC decided to charge Noor Ehsanuddin AFTER they completed their investigations and found that no restitution or refund of the money had been made.

For the record, in the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court, Noor Ehsanuddin, 58, faced 14 charges of accepting a bribe of RM23,540.68 in instalment payments for a BMW 3 Series car, from a printing company, Karya Hidayah Sdn Bhd in 2014 and 2015.

In the Johor Bahru court, he faced 10 charges including receiving a bribe of RM50,000 and a piece of land from the same company in 2013 and 2014.

He was also charged in the Shah Alam Sessions Court with five counts of accepting the maintenance of two vehicles and the legal fee payment of RM12,707.60 for the purchase of a piece of land.

Wouldn’t Joe Public wonder why despite thorough investigations, MACC failed to find an iota of evidence on the payback BEFORE the charges were proffered?

Surely, procedures would have necessitated the investigators to check with the printing company and recorded witness statements from its officials BEFORE submitting to the AGC for sanction to prosecute.

Only AFTER the AGC is satisfied that there is a case to answer (and all loopholes covered) will the suspect be charged in court. The MACC does not have powers of prosecution and refers all matters “upstairs” for a decision.

Now, even if we were to believe the MACC, who has told us that the accused had made payments BEFORE investigations started, the obvious retort colloquially would be: “Do you have half-past six investigators or have they been sleeping on the job?”

If at the time of investigations, no proof of such repayments was made but we have been told that AFTER the defence submitted a “new” witness statement under Section 62 of the MACC Act, the whole scenario changed.
The instalments for the BMW were made in 2014 and 2015 and came to light during MACC’s investigations.

Even it was settled a day BEFORE or much earlier, the probe started, can the accused be absolved of the charge of accepting bribe?
What does the Oversight Panel of the MACC have to say about this “oversight” or whatever you call it?

None, because its terms of reference restrict their powers to cases which are classified as “No Further Action (NFA)” and investigations which have been dormant for more than a year.

Wouldn’t another level of checks and balances be introduced to allow cases to be reviewed by this panel before they are withdrawn and incur the wrath of the people?

R NADESWARAN says speaking from the heart does not make him unpatriotic or un-nationalistic or a lesser Malaysian.

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