Explain decisions in high-profile cases to show no double standard, AGC told

Legal experts have urged the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) to consider explaining its decisions in high-profile cases to assure the public that no double standard is applied.

(FMT) – Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla said he was concerned that the public, in drawing conclusions about the judiciary and its decisions, might be guided by inaccurate information found on the internet.

“The time has come for the AGC to clarify and make accurate some of the inaccurate knowledge consumed by the public,” he said.

There is no legal requirement for the AGC to explain the exercise of its discretion in the conduct of criminal cases.

However, Haniff suggested that the AGC issue “proper and consistent statements” through a communications bureau to clear doubts as to whether it was carrying out its duties fairly.

He was commenting on Muda vice-president Lim Wei Jiet’s call for transparency following the resignation of Securities Commission Malaysia chairman Syed Zaid Albar, which came a few days after criminal charges against four Serba Dinamik Holdings Bhd executives were withdrawn.

Lim also cited the case of Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan, who was cleared of charges of money laundering involving RM2 million after paying a RM1.1 million compound. The maximum penalty for the offence is five years’ jail or a fine of RM5 million or both.

Haniff said that in a case in which the law provides for a compound, it would be the AGC’s duty to offer it to the accused first instead of taking him to court right away.

“If the accused person does not accept the compound or if he appeals against it, then he can be brought to court,” he said.

The compound provision under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (Amla) allows criminal matters to be settled outside of court through payment of a fine approved by a deputy public prosecutor.

Former Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir said the Federal Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code gave the AGC the discretion to initiate or to discontinue criminal proceedings.

“There is no clear duty for the AGC to provide reasons for the exercise of its discretion, but practice and prudence demand such disclosure be made to the public to allay fears of biases,” he told FMT.

Salim also said that if there were plea deals, it would be wise for the AGC to explain them to the public to show that the terms agreed upon reflect the seriousness of the crime.