Tuesday, May 18, 2021

In reverse role, former MACC chief turns defence counsel for ex-MP charged with money laundering

Ethical concerns arise as former anti-graft chief becomes part of ex-MP Shahrir Samad's defence team.

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There have been concerns within the legal fraternity over a former chief commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) playing the role of defence lawyer to a politician charged with corruption.

MalaysiaNow has learnt that Dzulkifli Ahmad, who served as MACC chief from 2016 to 2018, is part of the defence team for former Felda chairman Shahrir Samad in the latter’s money laundering case.

Shahrir, the former Johor Bahru MP, faces a charge of money laundering for failing to declare his actual income in 2013 when he received RM1 million from former prime minister Najib Razak.

Prior to heading the MACC, Dzulkifli was in charge of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement, a multi-agency unit placed under the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), when it was involved in the 2015 1MDB investigation which was shortlived.

The unit, which was disbanded by the Pakatan Harapan government in 2018, investigated tax evasion and the illegal outflow of funds, among others.

Dzulkifli was also head of the AGC’s unit to fight money laundering, the same crime with which his client is charged.

Shahrir is accused of breaching Section 113(1)(a) of the Income Tax Act 1967, as he did not report the RM1 million in his Public Bank account which he received from Najib in 2013.

His charge comes under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

The offence carries a maximum fine of RM5 million and a jail term of up to five years.

Shahrir was among 80 individuals and entities to whom MACC issues compound notices in 2019 for receiving some RM420 million from Najib.

Shahrir said in 2015 that it was normal to receive money from the Umno president.

He refused to pay the compound, and instead filed for a judicial review to challenge the notice by MACC.

Ethical questions

When contacted by MalaysiaNow, Dzulkifli confirmed that he is part of Shahrir’s defence team.

However, he did not answer when asked if it was proper for him to represent a client facing a corruption case as he had been the MACC chief.

A senior lawyer meanwhile warned of conflict of interest as Dzulkifli was involved in the very agencies which investigated 1MDB, the source of the money Shahrir received.

“He puts himself in a clear conflict of interest as the defence lawyer to Shahrir, as he would have confidential and privileged information which came to him during the time he was in the AGC, and subsequently as chief commissioner of MACC,” the lawyer told MalaysiaNow on condition of anonymity.

He also brought up the stringent rules of ethics and conduct set by the Malaysian Bar, adding that it could be seen as “unbecoming for an advocate and solicitor to accept a brief in these circumstances”.

Meanwhile, at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today, Shahrir through another lawyer, Firoz Hussein Ahmad Jamaludin, applied to block High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali from hearing a transfer application as well as from presiding over the trial.

In July, Nazlan delivered the guilty verdict on Najib over charges related to SRC International Sdn Bhd.

Shahrir said due to that, there was “a real possibility of bias” against him.

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