FORMER finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin’s wife/children were subjected to nine hours of interrogation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) yesterday (Jan 10). That is a long time. Toh Puan Naimah Khalid is a lovely lady; that is my re-collection when I met her many, many years ago.
My experience in the Royal Malaysia Police headquarters in Bukit Aman on many occasions did not last more than two hours but mine were not about hidden wealth; instead, they were about my tweets which some people complained as being seditious or had upset some people.
Maybe MACC is a different type of investigative agency. In most countries, matters on corruption, money laundering and other serious fraud cases are placed under a special department handled by specialist investigators. Still, the anti-graft agency is part of the police force. The police are the mother of all investigative bodies.
Here in Malaysia, we do it differently. Our disdain for corruption led us to establish a special commission where the Prime Minister (PM) appoints the Chief Commissioner who reports only to him (the PM). There is no need for him to accept any recommendation from any commission.
MACC has large buildings to house their staff, of which in some places are more impressive than the police headquarters. The budget for them is enormous. I would say that people fear MACC more than the police because MACC can ask anyone to prove that their wealth was not made illegally.
I know of someone whose account was frozen for months and they had to appoint a forensic auditor to detail their wealth before the account was unfrozen. They had to spend a few hundred thousand to prove that they did not acquire their wealth improperly. Why should we the public have this burden of proving our innocence?
Burden of proof
I know there are provisions in the AMLA Act (Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act) which shift the burden of proof to the accused persons to convince the court that their wealth was legally and properly obtained.
But this should only happen at the trial. In other words, the court may ask the accused to explain how the monies were received.
But this provision does not absolve MACC of conducting a proper and professional investigation. Only after such meticulous investigation should they call the suspect for questioning and charge them. No fishing expedition, please.
The provision should not be used to compel citizens to explain how they obtained their property and money. It is a fallacy that because of this so-called shifting of the burden of proof then that we (the citizens) have to do the hard work to exonerate ourselves.
Anyway, with the prospect of 120 or more MPs being called for questioning arising from the Dubai Move, a Parliamentary Committee should quickly be formed to look at the whole structure of MACC and the laws under which they operate.
I hope the MPs all take a closer look at our MACC set-up, especially their powers to investigate and freezing of accounts. They may regret giving too much power to this body as presently constituted.
I know you are all against corruption but so was Ayatollah Khomeini. So many Iranians lost their lives and property in the purge to rid the country of corruption during the reign of the Shah.
Let us clean up the country using the traditional way where laws are just and not unduly harsh, and where due process is followed. Otherwise, a reign of terror will be with us.
Let us go back to the era when the investigating agency and the prosecution proved their case. Let the presumption of innocence be restored. The people in power must not abandon this cardinal principle if we are to live in a civilised society – Jan 11, 2024
Kota Bharu-born former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim is both an UMNO member and founder of Zaid Ibrahim & Co, the largest private law firm in Malaysia (which he has since sold).
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.