Who’s really in charge of 1MDB probe, ask lawyers
They question the legal powers of the PM’s task force and the advisory committee to the Council of Eminent Persons.
PETALING JAYA: Duplication of work by two informal government bodies investigating the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal might hinder efforts to bring guilty parties to justice, two lawyers said today.
They called for all investigations to be placed under the Attorney-General, as he had the legal authority to supervise investigations and to ask for evidence to strengthen the prosecution’s case against any accused.
Last month, a special task force was set up by the Prime Minister’s Office to look into the financial affairs of 1MDB. A separate committee was set up under the prime minister’s advisory Council of Eminent Persons.
However, lawyer S N Nair, questioned the terms of reference of the task force and the committee, and suggested they be disbanded or work under the authority of the newly-appointed Attorney-General, Tommy Thomas.
The task force comprises former Attorney-General Gani Patail and the former head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Abu Kassim Mohamed, who were both on an earlier task force, as well as newly appointed MACC chief Mohd Shukri Abdull and former Special Branch deputy director Abdul Hamid Bador.
The team were tasked with investigations, financial tracking and asset acquisition linked to the loss of funds from 1MDB both in and outside the country, and have already had discussions with officers of the US Federal Bureau of Investigations and the US Justice Department.
The advisory committee to the Council of Eminent Persons comprises another former Attorney-General, Abu Talib Othman, three financial experts and an anti-corruption activist.
Nair pointed out that only authorised investigation agencies could conduct searches, order the forfeiture of exhibits, make arrests, record statements and prepare formal investigation papers.
“It is the AG who is the legal authority to supervise and where necessary to ask for further evidence to strengthen the prosecution’s case,” he said.
Nair questioned the legal position and powers of the task force and the advisory committee, as they were not established under the Commission of Enquiries Act 1950 or any other legislation. At best they were purely advisory ad-hoc groups, he said.
Another lawyer, M Visvanathan, said the existence of the groups may give rise to allegations of tampering of evidence and interference in the tasks of proper law enforcement agencies.
He said the government should ensure the rule of law was followed and that those to be charged would face credible evidence.
“If the provision of the law is not complied with, it is best the task force and the committee are disbanded,” he said, adding that investigators from the police, MACC and Bank Negara could perform their tasks under the guidance of the Attorney-General.