Sunday, May 9, 2010

MACC's efforts to combat corruption

The STAR online : Sunday May 9, 2010 @ 6:00:00 PM
400 Chinese apply to join MACC

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 400 Chinese have applied to join the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as investigating officer and assistant investigating officer.
Several approached said they were thankful to the Government for the chance and pledged to serve well if selected, as the Chinese were not exposed and given much opportunity to join the public sector.

MACC's said  the recent losses in high profile cases has led to many calls for it to beef up its investigation methods and processes in order to avoid having corruption cases thrown out of court.
MACC had claim that they were terribly short-handed and additional manpower is needed to beef up their investigative efforts to ensure all corruption cases are handled swiftly.
One of the steps being taken by MACC efforts is to encourage non- Bumi to apply as investigating officers. This is good news and I hope with this move we will see improvement in all aspects of MACC investigation efforts.

However I am concerned that besides the need for additional manpower, the "EFFECTIVENESS" of MACC's prosecution is also critically very important.
After the corruption case against  the 2 "frogs" of Perak was thrown out,  MACC chief commissioner Datuk Abu Kasim Mohamed's  expressed dismay that it has lost this and several cases in court. He said : "There seemed to be too many cases thrown out of the court due to lack of evidence. This cannot go on all the time. Perhaps there was a lapse somewhere between those preparing the case and those prosecuting."

I am glad he was upfront about this acknowledging present MACC's weaknesses. These are the issues  which I feel  MACC's Datuk Abu Kassim should be addressing

Training : Assessing the caliber of these  investigating officers officers and how well trained are them especially in understanding the law and the legal requirements to prosecute.

MACC and the AG's office : MACC investigates and submit their reports to the Attorney-General Chambers who will prosecute. MACC must review their present communication and co-ordination efforts with the AG's office . Transparent International Datuk Paul Low had recommended MACC should also look into the possibility of having its own power and authority to prosecute.

Bar Council chairman Ragunath Kesavan had commented that corruption cases  are  not easy to prove in court as the burden of proof is heavy as it must be beyond reasonable doubt. He said that MACC investigations were sometimes rushed and "in the eagerness, they were not being thorough enough. From our observation, some of the cases should not have even gone to court because there were some political elements behind them. But, due to pressure from the public, they immediately went to the court and filed charges. They are under pressure, so that's the easiest thing to do."

These are some of the high profile cases that were thrown out ( summary list from The Sun ) - most of them due to "Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case" -  Prima facie translated to layman's terms : based on first impression accepted as correct until proved otherwise

>> April 23, 2010
Changkat Jering assemblyman Mohd Osman Jailu, Behrang assemblyman Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi, former Bota assemblyman Usaili Alias, former Perak Tengah district councillor Zul Hassan and contractor Fairul Azrim Ismail acquitted on 16 counts of accepting and asking for bribes over an RM180 million development project in August 2008.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> April 14, 2010
Lenggeng assemblyman Mustafa Salim acquitted and discharged by the sessions court on three counts of soliciting and accepting bribes (RM3,000, RM2,000 and RM2,000) in August 2008.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> April 2, 2010
Wong Chuan How, special officer to Selangor state executive councillor Ronnie Liu, acquitted and discharged on a charge of submitting an allocation form and invoice with false particulars in September 2008.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> March 12, 2010
Former Commercial Crimes Investigation Department director Comm Datuk Ramli Yusuff acquitted on three charges of not disclosing information on his assets and shares in Sept 2007.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> Feb 12, 2010
Policeman Lance Corporal Azmi Din acquitted by the Sessions Court on four counts of soliciting for and receiving bribes amounting to RM2,500 in 2008.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> Feb 12, 2010
Policemen Insp. Mohd Al Azmin, Insp. Shahar Omar, Lance Corporal Zulkipli Rashid and Lance Corporal Che Wahab Che Hat acquitted on the charge of soliciting and accepting bribes (RM8,000 and RM6,650) from businessmen as an inducement not to take action against them for prostitution activities in 2006.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> Jan 13, 2010
Actor and former Merdeka Stadium Corp manager Abu Bakar Kasim acquitted and discharged on three counts of abusing his position in the selection of a company for renovation works worth RM26,756.60 on Bukit Jalil National Stadium in 1999.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> Aug 12, 2009
Former Land and Co-operative Development Minister Tan Sri Kasitah Gaddam acquitted by the High Court on charges of corrupt practice and cheating in 1996.
Judge: Prosecution failed to establish prima facie case.

>> July 24, 2009
Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Mirza Mohd Taiyab acquitted on a charge of accepting dental treatment worth RM13,860 from a company director without consideration in 2005.
Judge: Prosecution failed to prove element of mens rea (criminal intent).

Transparent International Datuk Paul Low said : "They should look into this point to make sure the cases prosecuted stand a chance of winning. They must be well prepared and maintain professionalism during both investigation and prosecution process". He advised MACC to upgrade the caliber of its investigating officers and create more support such as within the investigation department because it
involves white collar crimes. "For example in the investigation team, there must be the technical experts, the investigative accountants and other specialists who would be able to offer advice in all aspects".

I have been following these cases and though I do not have a "legal trained" mind but just using common sense and simple reasoning I can see that most of the cases are rejected on technical grounds. I question the "caliber" of the lawyers of the AG's office in failing to prove beyond reasonable doubt. I believe these lawyers are not incapable of prosecution but presenting a weak case to prosecute is wrong. To many layman on the street,  it is being interpreted as just another "window dressing" just to show the public the MACC and the AG's office is combating the corrupt. If this is true - corruption will still thrive as the corrupted knows they just had to withstand the temporary "shame" as the acquittal will follow. And we will continue to hear the "corrupted" claims of "liberation and justice being done" !!!

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