MALAYSIA: On Monday (4 Sept), the Malaysian High Court granted Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister a Discharge Not Amounting to Acquittal (DNAA) on all corruption charges related to the misappropriation of funds from a charity foundation, Yayasan Akal Budi (YAB).
A DNAA from the court means that the accused is released from the current charges without being formally acquitted.
The case is temporarily suspended, but the prosecution retains the option to refile the charges or reinstate the case at a later time if new evidence or circumstances arise.
This decision was made by the High Court following a request by Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mukhtar.
However, the High Court did not grant a full acquittal to the 70-year-old DPM Zahid, who also serves as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Bagan Datuk.
According to the New Straits Times, Presiding Judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah clarified that the Attorney-General (AG) has the authority to initiate and withdraw charges at any time before a judgment is reached.
Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal judge, who had previously presided as a High Court judge, emphasized that a significant amount of judicial time and taxpayers’ money would have been wasted if the prosecution had chosen not to proceed with the case.
BERSIH calls on the prosecution to review DPM Zahid’s DNAA
In response to this recent development, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (BERSIH), a Malaysian civil society group, expresses grave concern regarding the DNAA granted to Deputy Prime Minister Zahid on all 47 charges of corruption involving millions of ringgit from YAB.
In a statement issued on Monday, the BERSIH Steering Committee finds this situation unacceptable, especially when the prosecution had successfully established a prima facie case, and Zahid must present his defence.
“The prosecution owes the public an explanation as to why the request for DNAA at this stage when a prima facie has been established.”
“The AGC must also reveal what possible new charges or new directions of investigation they are studying against Zahid.”
If there are no plans for new charges, BERSIH questioned whether this might provide an avenue for Zahid to seek acquittal within months.
Thus, BERSIH calls on the prosecution to review the DNAA, examine the evidence, and reconsider all 47 charges, recharging if necessary.
“Bersih wishes to remind and draw precedence from the case of the former intelligence chief Hasanah Ab Hamidi where on August 2022, the High Court granted a full acquittal in her RM50 million (approximately US$ 10.74 million) criminal breach of trust charge, just one year after the DNAA.”
Calls for immediate AG/PP separation to safeguard anti-corruption and reform efforts
As the anti-craft and reformist credential of his Madani Government comes under serious doubt following this decision, Bersih urged Malaysian 10th PM Anwar Ibrahim to announce within this week a clear roadmap and timeline for the separation of Public Prosecution from the Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC).
As it stands now, the Attorney General is a political appointee advising the government who plays the duo role of the Public Prosecutor who holds the power to initiate or drop criminal charges.
“This power can be abused or weaponised for political reasons. The AG/PP separation has been advocated by Bersih and civil society groups and we have come up with thorough recommendations on how it can be done. ”
“The only action left is to implement it, ” the statement added.
Concerns mount over potential implications for Najib Razak’s charges amidst AGC reform delay
BERSIH also wonder if this is a prelude to the dropping of all remaining charges against former Prime Minister Najib Razak, which will all but erode public trust in the Madani government’s reform agenda.
“Until the separation is done, the AGC must refrain from withdrawing charges in high-profile cases.”
“If the cases are defective, let judges rule on that, not prosecutors who are ultimately under the Prime Minister’s control.”
BERSIH stressed that Malaysians are sick of seeing this correlation: Those who stay in power forever stay innocent, while those who lose power also lose their innocence.
“The request for DNAA by the Deputy Public Prosecution at this stage of Zahid’s trial strongly reinforces the urgency to separate the PP and AG – nothing less will restore the credibility of the PP – indeed, the whole government – after this decision.”
BERSIH cautions PM Anwar Ibrahim that further delay in AGC reform could significantly damage the credibility of the Madani government, which is now associated with this troubling precedent regarding politically-connected trials.
“Enough talk, politicians must walk the talk. Reform now before sinking to the point of no return!”
UMNO chairman facing 47 criminal charges
70-year-old Zahid, Chairman of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), had been facing 47 charges – 12 for criminal breach of trust (CBT), eight for corruption and 27 for money laundering – involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi (YAB).
For the 12 CBT charges, he is alleged to have used the funds for personal expenses such as credit card payments, insurance policies, vehicle licenses, remittances to a law firm, and contributions to a police football association.
He was accused of committing the offences between 28 March 2016, and 11 April 2018.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in jail, whipping, and a fine.
On 23 September last year, Mr Zahid was acquitted of all 40 graft charges against him in Foreign Visa System (VLN) case.
Following Barisan Nasional (BN)’s tragic loss in GE15, Zahid, as its chairman, has been embattled with criticism and calls to step down.
With only 30 seats secured out of the contested 177 seats, BN saw its worst result in the coalition’s history.
After the conclusion of the Malaysia 15th General Election, the Malaysia King named Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister to end the impasse of a hung parliament, as none of the major political coalitions gained a simple majority.
On 16 December last year, political leaders from UMNO, Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Sabah and Sarawak signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) pledging their support to the Unity Government led by Anwar Ibrahim.
In December 2022, BERSIH voiced their disappointment regarding the appointment of the UMNO Chairman as DPM, particularly amidst his ongoing trial on 47 graft charges.
“Though we understand the politics behind his appointment, we regret that principles took a backseat,” BERSIH said in a statement.
“To cement his credentials as a reformist, Anwar has to double-down efforts to fulfil PH’s (Pakatan Harapan) election manifesto promises to fight corruption and strengthen the integrity of our key institutions.”