Ex-Bar chiefs ‘disappointed’ by AG’s silence on claims against Nazlan

The 14 former Bar presidents also question the confidentiality of MACC’s processes after a letter to the chief justice was leaked online.

(FMT) – Fourteen former Malaysian Bar presidents have expressed disappointment over Attorney-General (AG) Idrus Harun’s silence over the allegations of corruption levelled against Justice Nazlan Ghazali.

They said Idrus had failed to respond to the claim that Nazlan had a conflict of interest when presiding over the SRC International case, despite the Federal Court’s dismissal of the allegation raised by Najib Razak’s lawyers.

They also accused the AG of failing to publicly clear Nazlan, now a Court of Appeal judge, of allegations of corruption.

“This is especially since the AG himself is a former Federal Court judge and must surely understand the devastating effect of his silence upon the judiciary and the sanctity of the administration of justice,” they said in a joint statement today.

The statement was signed by VC George, Param Cumaraswamy, Zainur Zakaria, Cyrus Das, Mah Weng Kwai, Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari, Yeo Yang Poh, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Lim Chee Wee, Steven Thiru, George Varughese, Fareed Abdul Gafoor, Salim Bashir and AG Kalidas.

The past Bar presidents claimed that there was a “continuing intimidation” of the judiciary in connection with the SRC case, adding that this was a danger to the rule of law.

They pointed out that two separate Federal Court panels had decided that there were no merits to allegations of conflict of interest on Nazlan’s part.

They also said the sole dissenting judge in the decision to reject Najib’s Azam Baki, MACCbid to review his conviction and sentence had not touched on the issue of Nazlan’s alleged conflict of interest.

“Thus, the allegation of conflict of interest against Nazlan has been decided with finality. The principle of ‘res judicata’ applies and the matter cannot be reopened,” they said.

“This case has given rise to an unacceptable level of intimidation against judges who are doing their duty to uphold the law without fear or favour. They are facing constant harassment, and are subject to machinations and schemes by some with vested interests.

“All of this must stop as it does not serve the rule of law or the country. Those who have been found to have committed offences must pay for it.”

Yesterday, law and institutional reform minister Azalina Othman Said confirmed that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) probe on Nazlan concluded that he had violated the Judges’ Code of Ethics and had a conflict of interest when presiding over the SRC case.

She was responding to a letter from Najib’s solicitors, dated March 15, inquiring whether MACC had written to Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat to recommend that disciplinary proceedings be commenced against Nazlan in relation to his conduct of the SRC case.

This came after images of a purported letter from MACC chief Azam Baki to Tengku Maimun made the rounds on social media, days after the Federal Court dismissed Najib’s bid to review his conviction and sentence.

Azalina’s confirmation led to various quarters questioning the role of MACC in the investigation, while others, such as Umno leader Puad Zarkashi, demanded the chief justice and AG set the record straight on the matter.

However, the past Bar presidents found it unusual for a minister to respond and provide information to a litigant over the MACC letter to the chief justice.

“This reeks of interference,” they said.

They also said it was astounding that the confidential letter was leaked and that this raised serious questions about the confidentiality of MACC’s processes.

The lawyers maintained that MACC’s letter involved issues beyond MACC’s authority and jurisdiction under the MACC Act.

“MACC does not have any power nor jurisdiction to investigate, let alone make findings or come to a view of alleged conflict of interest in a court matter and breaches of judicial ethics,” they said.

“MACC only has power to investigate alleged corruption and matters related thereto. This is clearly set out in the MACC Act.”

Nazlan had convicted Najib in July 2020 on charges of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust over RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC.

He sentenced Najib to 12 years in jail and fined him RM210 million. Najib’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed in December 2021. The Federal Court on Aug 23 last year upheld the conviction and sentence.