Wednesday, June 12

2023: Prominent figures freed from court cases

The ruling by the court in releasing, as well as discharging not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) of several politicians and prominent figures from criminal charges has sparked a firestorm of argument among the public.

The twists and turns of events during the proceedings of the cases have sided with this notable personnel, resulting in the charges that had been hanging over their head for years being disposed of.

Among them are Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (picture), former Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Kinabatangan Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and his wife Datin Seri Zizie Izette Abdul Samad, as well as former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) audit tampering case.

On Sept 4, the High Court discharged not amounting to an acquittal Ahmad Zahid from all 47 charges of criminal breach of trust, corruption and money laundering concerning Yayasan Akalbudi funds after allowing the prosecution’s application to halt the case as they wanted to further investigate the case.

This means that the prosecution is free to bring or continue with the case against Ahmad Zahid at any time in the future based on similar facts and evidence from the present case.

The prosecution had cited 11 grounds in their application to halt the proceedings, among others, that Ahmad Zahid had raised a very serious issue in his letters of representation, namely regarding the allegation that he was a victim of selective prosecution by the previous government.

The court had previously heard testimonies from 114 witnesses, including Ahmad Zahid who was called to enter his defence on the charges. The trial commenced on Nov 18, 2019.

Another case that brought the nation’s attention involved Muhyiddin, who was acquitted and discharged of four counts of abuse of power involving RM232.5 million in connection with the Jana Wibawa project on Aug 15 by the High Court.

Judge Datuk Muhammad Jamil Hussin made the ruling after allowing the former prime minister’s application to strike out the four charges because they were vague, flawed and unfounded as they did not specify the details of the offences committed.

Following that, the prosecution filed an appeal against the High Court’s decision at the Court of Appeal and the matter will be heard on Feb 28 and 29 next year.

However, Muhyiddin still has three other charges under Section 4(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLATFPUAA) facing him.

Meanwhile, three days after Ahmad Zahid was given a DNAA, another court story made headlines when High Court Judge Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid acquitted and discharged Bung Moktar and his wife, Zizie Izette, of three corruption charges amounting to RM2.8 million involving RM150 million investment in Public Mutual Berhad unit trust.

Judge Azhar acquitted and discharged the couple of the charges after allowing their applications for a revision against the Sessions Court’s decision ordering them to enter their defence on the charges.

The judge held that the decision of the Sessions Court to call for defence was a miscarriage of justice. The prosecution had on Sept 15 filed an appeal against the couple’s acquittal.

This year also witnessed the acquittal and discharge of Najib and former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy of a charge regarding the 1MDB audit tampering case without their defence being called.

Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, held that the prosecution had failed to establish a prima facie case against Najib and Arul Kanda at the end of the prosecution’s case.

In the grounds of judgment, the judge said he found no evidence to suggest or prove that Najib explicitly directed the amendments made to exonerate him from any civil or criminal liability and that Arul Kanda was consistent throughout his testimony, adding that it was compatible with the evidence produced and testimonies of other witnesses.

The prosecution appealed, but it was struck out by a three-member Court of Appeal (COA) panel on Sept 12 as they failed to file the petition of appeal within the stipulated time and also for not filing any application to extend the deadline to file the petition of appeal.

On Nov 9, all eyes were again centred on the High Court which found Muar MP Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman guilty of four charges of abetting in criminal breach of trust (CBT), misappropriation of property and money laundering in connection to Angkatan Bersatu Anak Muda (Armada) funds.

Syed Saddiq, who was sentenced to seven years in jail, two strokes of the cane and fined RM10 million for the offence, then stepped down as Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) president with immediate effect.

The court, however, granted a stay of execution of the sentence pending his appeal at the Court of Appeal.

Another case involved former Labuan Member of Parliament Datuk Rozman Isli who was freed by the Sessions Court on June 25 for power abuse in obtaining an employment contract for Labuan Liberty Port Management Sdn Bhd (LLPM).

The court acquitted Rozman after finding that the prosecution had failed to raise a prima facie case.

Meanwhile, about Najib’s application to review his conviction and 12 years jail sentence and fine for misappropriation of RM42 million in SRC International Sdn Bhd funds, the Federal Court in a 4-1 majority judgment on March 31 dismissed the application.

It was Najib’s last legal avenue to overturn his conviction. The only option left is for him to apply for a royal pardon, which is at the discretion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. Najib is currently serving his jail sentence at the Kajang Prison.

However, it was a relief for Najib’s lawyer, Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who was charged with two money laundering cases involving RM9.5 million allegedly received from the former prime minister and two other charges for making false declarations to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), when the prosecution withdrew their appeal to reverse his acquittal on the charges.

Another politician who made headlines this year is former Permatang Pasir Assemblyman and lawyer Muhammad Faiz Fadzil, who was given a discharge not amounting to acquittal by the Shah Alam Magistrate’s Court on Sept 7 on a charge of outraging the modesty of a salesgirl following a representation to the Attorney General’s Chambers.

Former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng Chong Hwa was also granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal by the High Court here on Jan 9 on four counts of abetting the company in the sale of security notes and bonds worth US$6.5 billion belonging to 1MDB subsidiaries pending his United States trial conclusion.

Another case that also captured public attention was that of Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the Sessions Court on May 3, after finding her guilty of neglecting and abusing a teenage girl with Down syndrome, known as Bella.

Siti Bainun was sent to Kajang Prison on the same day (May 3) after the court dismissed her application for a stay of execution of the jail sentence and her appeal against the Session Court decision will be heard at the High Court on Jan 30 next year.

Another case that made headlines involved businessman Datuk SM Faisal SM Nasimuddin who was freed by the Magistrate’s Court on a charge of injuring his ex-wife Emilia Hanafi eight years ago after the woman withdrew the case.

The case of clerk Sam Ke Ting who was charged with reckless driving that caused the death of eight teenagers who were riding modified bicycles commonly known as “basikal lajak” in 2017 also brought public attention when the Court of Appeal, on March 31, acquitted and discharged her of the charge.

The court unanimously allowed Sam’s appeal to set aside a High Court decision that convicted and sentenced her to six years in jail for the offence.

Another decision that caught the public’s attention was involving a teenager who was found guilty of the murder of 23 people in a fire at the Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah Tahfiz Centre in 2017. He was 16 years old then.

On Sept 11, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of a High Court in ordering him, who is now 22 years old, to be detained at the pleasure of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong after concluding that the High Court’s conviction of him was safe and should be upheld.

Apart from criminal cases, 2023 also witnessed the conclusion of many civil cases including of former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin and former Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy.

On June 23, the High Court ordered Zuraida to pay RM10 million to PKR for breaching the bond binding her to the party. Zuraida then filed an appeal against the decision and the Court of Appeal has set July 1 next year for a hearing.

On Nov 2, Ramasamy was ordered by the High Court to pay a total of RM1.52 million in damages for defaming controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik within 30 days. He paid the amount which was transferred into the solicitor’s account on Nov 17.

On Nov 23, another landmark decision was made by the Court of Appeal, where, the court dismissed appeals by four organisations seeking a declaration that the existence and establishment of vernacular schools and the use of Chinese and Tamil languages in those schools are unconstitutional.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that national-type schools or vernacular schools are not public authorities and as such the use of Tamil or Chinese languages as the medium of instruction for teaching in these schools is not prohibited.

Other court decisions that attracted public attention this year included by the Apex Court on Oct 16 ordering Najib and his son, Datuk Mohd Nazifuddin, to pay income tax arrears amounting to RM1.69 billion and RM37.6 million, respectively, to IRB after dismissing their appeal against the summary judgments entered against them.

Another was on June 27 by the Federal Court which affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision that declared the amended pension law as null and void. The court made the ruling when dismissing an appeal by the Malaysian Government and the Public Service Department (PSD) director-general to overturn the appellate court’s decision.

According to the court, Section 3 and Section 7 of the Pensions Adjustment (Amendment) Act (PAA) 2013 which allow a two per cent increment annually were less favourable to pensioners and thus contravened Article 147 of the Federal Constitution (which provides for the protection of pension rights).

Regarding election petitions, this year also saw the Election Commission (EC) holding the Kemaman parliamentary by-election last Dec 2 following an election court decision on Sept 26 which annulled the victory of PAS candidate Che Alias Hamid in the 15th general election last year over bribery claims.

Another case was by Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Jasmira Othman to nullify PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang’s victory for the Marang parliamentary seat in the GE15, but it was dismissed by the Federal Court.

BN also filed a petition to nullify the result of the Masjid Tanah parliamentary seat, which was won by Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin in the 15th General Election, but was dismissed by the Melaka High Court.

This year, the court also witnessed prominent figures being slapped with charges under the Sedition Act 1948, including Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor for uttering seditious words regarding the appointment of the Selangor Menteri Besar and the establishment of the unity government during a political talk.

Kijal assemblyman Senator Datuk Razali Idris was also charged for making a speech of a seditious nature at the launch of the Kemaman by-election machinery.

Some of the figures in the opposition party were also charged under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA) in connection with the Jana Wibawa project namely Muhyiddin, Segambut Bersatu division deputy chief Adam Radlan Adam Muhammad and former Bersatu Information Chief Datuk Wan Saiful Wan Jan. – Bernama

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