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Transparency International shocked by AGC decision to request discharge for Zahid

TI-Malaysia says public trust in the Attorney-General's Chambers could erode unless a 'full and frank' explanation is given.

Staff Writers
2 minute read
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi raises his fist as he leaves the Kuala Lumpur court complex, Sept 4. Photo: Reuters
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi raises his fist as he leaves the Kuala Lumpur court complex, Sept 4. Photo: Reuters

Transparency International Malaysia (TI-Malaysia) has expressed shock at the discharge granted to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in the Yayasan Akalbudi case, reiterating calls for the government to review the separation of roles between the attorney-general and public prosecutor.

TI-Malaysia said it was now incumbent upon the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to explain "fully and frankly" to all Malaysians why the prosecution had made this decision instead of allowing the trial to continue until the final judgment. 

"Unless this shocking decision is properly explained, the people's trust in the independence of the AGC could erode," it said, noting as well that Zahid would be able to apply for a full acquittal within the next few months if no new charges are filed. 

Zahid, the Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, had faced 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight of corruption, and 27 of money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to the charity foundation.

He was given the DNAA after deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar, who was appointed just last month to replace Raja Rozela Raja Toran following her sudden "early retirement", informed judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah of the Attorney-General's Chambers' request to discontinue all proceedings against him.

Following the widespread outrage over the decision, the AGC said the judge had decided based on the strong reasons it submitted to the court. 

"In reaching the decision, the judge stated that the reasons submitted by the prosecution were cogent," it said, responding to statements describing the decision as immoral.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim meanwhile said he was not involved in the decision, and that the attorney-general had full power to handle the case. 

TI-Malaysia said it was generally understood that the attorney-general would acted as an adviser to the government while the public prosecutor was to act independently in criminal cases. 

"Having both these functions under one individual gives rise in some cases to a possible 'perceived conflict of interest'," it said. 

"Thus, TI-Malaysia repeats its call to the government to consider this institutional reform to separate these roles as soon as possible."

In a statement, it also expressed concern over the perception of the public and the international community on the discharge. 

"If we have a high-profile corruption case in the middle of a trial given a discharge, particularly after the prosecution had proven a prima facie case, then it is very likely this will have a negative impact on the CPI scores for the nation," it said, referring to the global Corruption Perception Index.