PUTRAJAYA, Sept 2 — The Court of Appeal has dismissed the prosecution’s appeal to forfeit millions of ringgit belonging to UMNO, Wanita MCA, and six other entities.
The prosecution is appealing against the decision of the Kuala Lumpur High Court in dismissing its application to forfeit RM192,965,413.61 belonging to UMNO; Wanita MCA (RM300,000), Perano Sdn Bhd, a company that sells hijabs, and Binsabi Sdn Bhd which supplies tents, involved RM337,634.78 and RM827,250 respectively; Habib Jewels Sdn Bhd (RM100,000); K&Z Enterprise Sdn Bhd (RM138,359.60); Kedah UMNO Liaison Committee (RM1.05 million) and Hattatex Trading (RM111,590).
The three-member bench comprising Justices Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil, Datuk Hadhariah Syed Ismail and Datuk Abu Bakar Jais also allowed an appeal by Pahang UMNO Liaison Committee against a High Court’s decision on Jan 9 last year in allowing the prosecution to forfeit RM2,479,300.18 that was seized from the committee.
“The court found that the trial judge had erred and disregarded the facts that the money had been spent and no longer available and that the money seized was from other sources and were lawful money.
“Accordingly, we allow the appellant’s appeal (UMNO Pahang) and set aside the High Court’s order,” justice Hadhariah said when reading out the brief judgment in a virtual proceeding today.
The money, seized by the Malaysian Anti -Corruption Commission (MACC), was allegedly linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (IMDB) fund scandal.
Justice Hadhariah said the unlawful activity, in this case, is the unlawful activities committed by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in relation to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds and the prosecution’s case is that the money received by the respondents from Najib were monies from 1MDB and were an offense committed by Najib under Section 23 of MACC Act 2009 (the predicate offenses).
“The learned High Court judge found that the affidavit affirmed by the investigating officer on the predicate offenses of Section 23 merely disclose the movements of the monies deposited and transferred out of Najib’s accounts and certain other entities and there is no sufficient averment to establish the monies received from Najib were unlawful activities,” Justice Hadhariah said.
The judge also stated that even if the monies received from Najib were from unlawful activities, the High Court had correctly ruled that the monies still cannot be simply forfeited because the respondents had averred that the monies given by Najib between 2012 and 2013 had already been spent after a period of five years and the monies seized in 2018 were from other lawful sources.
“The prosecution did not challenge the respondents’ averment. It is very unlikely that the money in the respondents’ accounts seized in 2018 was derived from the cheque issued by Najib.
“The prosecution did not identify specifically which money in the respondents’ accounts were actually the proceed from the unlawful activities,” she said.
On the appeal in relation to the political parties, Justice Hadhariah said the court found no reason to disturb the finding of fact made by the High Court judges.
“Based on the evidence, the judges concluded that the court is not satisfied under Section 56 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 that the monies sought to be forfeited is evidence or subject matter relating to an offense for unlawful activities.
“We find no good reason to disturb the finding of fact made by the learned High Court judges. Accordingly, we dismiss the prosecution’s appeal,” she said.
On the appeal in relation to the business entities, Justice Hadhariah said that the court agreed with the judges that the monies received from Najib were the payment for services rendered by the respondents (business entities) to him.
“The respondents supported their case with documentary proof such as invoices. The respondents had no knowledge and no reason to suspect that the monies they received from Najib were proceeds of unlawful activities.
“We, therefore, dismiss the prosecution’s appeal against the respondents and affirmed the order of the High Court,” she added.
The prosecution was conducted by Deputy Public Prosecutor Muhammad Saifuddin Hashim Musaimi, Kamal Baharin Omar, Samihah Rhazali, Nik Haslinie Hashim, Mahadi Abdul Jumaat, Maziah Mohaide, Abdul Rashid Sulaiman and Farah Yasmin Salleh.
Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh and Syazwani Mohd Zawawi appeared for UMNO; Datuk Ben Chan dan Syazwani Mahmud representing Wanita MCA; Thevini Nayagam dan Habizan Rahman for Perano and K&Z Enterprise; G. Nadaraja for Kedah UMNO Liaison Committee; Mohd Khalil Tajuddin for Binsabi; Datuk Syed Azimal Amir Syed Abu Bakar for UMNO Pahang; Mohd Shukri Ahmad Mansor for Hattatex and Khoo Guan Huat for Habib Jewels.
On June 21, 2019, the MACC filed civil forfeit ure applications against 41 people and entities, including UMNO, to recover RM270 million allegedly taken from 1MDB.
MACC’s then-chief commissioner, Latheefa Koya, said the funds were allegedly transferred from Najib’s personal Ambank account.