The saga of the Felda director whose corruption case made headlines for the past four days took yet another murky twist – the MACC Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee (ACAB) declared that its own officers acted “unprofessionally and were influenced by political considerations.”
The revelation is a slap in the face for hundreds of honest MACC officers (present and past) who carry out their responsibilities without fear or favour. Besides, this has caused a serious dent on MACC’s image and independence which the commission touts brazenly. And now, critics have every reason to shout: “I told you so”.
To put matters in the right perspective, this is a brief re-cap of the events:
- In 2019, Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid was charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court on 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.
- On May 21, the MACC withdrew all charges. On Sept 2, belatedly, his counsel, Hasnal Rezua Merican explained: “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.”
- On Sept 6, the MACC issued a statement, which among others, said: “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 the start of the (initial) investigation. A key witness also confirmed the matter (money) as advances.”
Yesterday, the same mantra was repeated in a statement by ACAB chairperson Abu Zahar Ujang, who said: “Following explanations from MACC’s top brass, the committee found that the decision to drop charges against Noor Ehsanuddin was due to new facts that emerged only after he had been charged in court.”
As I had argued in my column on Tuesday, the “real” issue is the reason advanced by the MACC on its decision to withdraw charges, which many found unacceptable.
The question was and still is: Does the repayment or reimbursement of monies paid as a bribe towards the instalment of the car absolve the accused of any liability?
For example, one pays for a civil servant’s monthly travel pass for over two years in exchange for favours. When the latter gets wind of impending investigations into the arrangement, he pays a lump sum and asks that the monies be treated as advances. Both would certainly be guilty.
Even if there was evidence that the monies had been repaid, the mere act of accepting gratification is an offence.
If at the material time of investigations (in 2019), there was no evidence of repayment (which only emerged in a subsequent defence statement), how does it make it “unprofessional or influenced by political considerations”?
AGC must explain too
For good measure, the Attorney General’s Chambers has been drawn into this fiasco.
Abu Zahar said: “The ACAB views there are shortcomings in the investigation; and the decisions by the Attorney-General’s Chambers in early February 2019 and the MACC management and administration at the time was made without a comprehensive consideration.”
What is meant by “without comprehensive consideration”? What were the shortcomings? If they were so monumental and crucial to the case, how did the AGC give the sanction to prosecute?
According to Abu Zahar, “new facts emerged only after he (Noor Ehsanuddin) had been charged” but that was hardly unprofessional. It was not that there was no case in the first place, but how and where did “political considerations” come in?
It is not for the public to get involved in word games and puzzles to try and decipher the cryptic messages emanating from MACC. There’s much more that is being hidden from the public. Unless the committee and the management are willing to have an open discussion on this issue, the people will always be suspicious of the motives of MACC’s actions or inaction in certain cases.
By the way, Abu Zahar and his committee have not addressed the elephant in the room: Is it legal and acceptable for any person to accept gratification and later repay the money and call it “advances” to escape prosecution?
R NADESWARAN says the latest turn of events has left a bad taste in the mouths of right-thinking Malaysians whose confidence in MACC will be somewhat diminished.
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