A glimpse into Malaysia’s high-profile graft cases and MACC’s success rate in netting the ‘sharks’

ONCE accused of only going after the ikan bilis (anchovies), the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is now receiving plaudits for taking on the big fish, perhaps the biggest fish.

During the premiership of Tun Hussein Onn (January 1976 to July 1981), former Selangor menteri besar (MB) Datuk Harun Idris was sentenced to six years’ jail after being found guilty of corruption charges which included abuse of state funds between 1975 and 1977.

However, after serving three years, the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) pardoned Harun in 1981 when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad became the prime minister (July 1981 to October 2003).

In January 1994, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) founder Datuk Seri Pairin Kitingan who was the then Sabah chief minister (CM) was found guilty of using his position to award contracts corruptly and fined RM1,800.

Former Selangor menteri besar (MB) Datuk Harun Idris

Pairin did not have to quit his post of chief minister as the Sabah state constitution and the Federal Constitution only disqualify a person from holding a public office had he/she been fine more than RM2,000 or jailed for more than a year.

Najib, Muhyiddin and Lim Guan Eng

During the tenure of Datuk Seri Najib Razak (April 2009 to May 2018), Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo was sentenced to 12 months’ jail in 2011 for using his then position as Selangor MB to buy two plots of land and a house worth a collective RM6.5 mil for only RM3.5 mil. He was granted parole after serving six months in the Kajang Prison.

Former Penang CM Lim Guan Eng was slapped with charges on June 30, 2016 under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 and Section 165 of the Penal Code over an allegedly corrupt house purchase deal.

When Dr Mahathir was re-appointed as the PM for his second stint (May2018 to February 2020) during the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, the prosecution asked for a discharge not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) on Sept 4, 2018 but the Penang High Court judge decided to grant both charges a full acquittal.

Malaysia has broken the world political record when two former premiers were charged in courts – Datuk Seri Najib Razak (on July 4, 2018) and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (on Mac 10, 2023) – alongside Deputy PM Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (June 26,2019).

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (left) and Datuk Seri Najib Razak

While the Pardons Board has reduced currently incarcerated Najib’s prison sentence from 12 to six years while his fine is slashed from RM210 mil to RM50 mil, Najib still has a few more court cases pending in court.

But Muhyiddin’s case is also currently pending in court while the High Court has discharged not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) Zaihid from all 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering.

During Muhyiddin’s tenure as PM under the Perikatan Nasional administration (March 2020 to August 2021), Guan Eng was again charged on Aug 7, 2020 for soliciting a bribe over the RM6.3 bil undersea tunnel project during his tenure as the Penang CM.

The charge sheet alleged that he had asked for a bribe amounting to 10% of future profits from the company. The case is pending in court.

Isa Samad, Syed Saddiq, Tun M-Daim

On Feb 3, 2021, the High Court found Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad, 73, guilty of nine charges of bribery involving RM3.09 mil in FELDA’s acquisition of Merdeka Palace Hotel & Suites in Kuching, Sarawak. However, the Court of Appeal acquitted the former Negri Sembilan MB of corruption charges on March 6 this year.

Former Negri Sembilan menteri besar Tan Sri Isa Samad (Image credit: Bernama)

A three-member Court of Appeal bench acquitted former federal territories minister and Putrajaya MP Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor of graft involving RM2 mil that entered on a company account that he controls on July 16, 2021.

Former Perlis MB Datuk Seri Azlan Man claimed trial at the Kangar Sessions Court on April 10 last year over five counts of submitting false overseas travel claims amounting to more than RM1.18 mil between 2013 and 2017 under the MACC Act 2009. The case is pending in court.

Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman was convicted of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving RM1 mil of Bersatu Youth’s fund on Nov 9 last year.

He was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, a RM10 mil fine and two strokes of the cane but the High Court has allowed his application for a stay of execution of his sentence pending an appeal while he can remain as the Muar MP.

The latest high-profile cases under the MACC’s radar were those against Tun Daim Zainuddin, Dr Mahathir and current Perlis MB Mohd Shukri Ramli.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (left) and Tun Daim Zainuddin

However, criminal offences can be prosecuted regardless of the effluxion of time. As such, a wrongdoer can be prosecuted as and when evidence emerges even at a later point in time.

According to Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, former Perak MB Datuk Ahmad Said (May 1964 to Marvh 1970) was found with nearly RM1.2 mil in his accounts, of which RM330,000 was confiscated as it was found to have been attained through bribery following which he immediately resigned.

In about the same time, Terengganu MB Tan Sri Ibrahim Fikri Mohamad (November 1961 to September 1970) was ordered to take two months’ leave and was subsequently replaced by Datuk Mahmood Sulaiman. At the federal level, former housing and local government minister Tan Sri Khaw Kai Boh was asked to withdraw from the cabinet.

The above sets a standard that is practised in democracies and good governance where upholding the law and the public interest are more important than self-interest.

Nevertheless, even in the best of systems – transparent as they may be – justice may not always be served. In such cases, we can only hope that eventually justice will be served by God. – May 7, 2024


Datuk Seri Dr Akhbar Satar is the Malaysia Integrity & Governance Society (MIG) president.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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