Musa Aman Acquitted of All 46 Charges of Corruption, Money Laundering

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Former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman was today acquitted of 46 graft and money-laundering charges linked to timber concessions.

  • Claim that alleged bribes were political donations, not from logging or projects
  • No explanation has yet been given for the AGC’s decision to withdraw all 46 charges
  • Musa cannot be tried again for the same offence
  • Claim that charges against Musa politically motivated

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today freed former Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman of all his 46 corruption and money laundering charges in connection with timber concession contracts in Sabah.

Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid told the court that the prosecution had withdrawn all the charges made against Musa in the two cases (corruption and money laundering).

Musa’s lawyer Francis Ng Aik Guan said both the cases need an ending and the court ought to make an apt decision, that is to acquit and discharge his client of all charges for fear that he will be re-charged.

Judge Datuk Muhammad Jamil Hussin then acquitted and discharged Musa of all 46 charges.

“The accused is hereby acquitted and discharged. The bail money will be refunded to the bailer and the dates set for trial earlier will be vacated,” the judge said.

The trial was initially scheduled for September, October and November this year, starting Sept 14.

The judge also allowed Ng’s application to withdraw the applications on legal issues pertaining to his client’s money laundering case.

Ng said the two applications were withdrawn as his client has been freed by the court.

“We also extend our thanks to the prosecution for the decision,” Ng said.

Musa, 69 was charged with 30 counts of corruption and 16 counts of money laundering relating to timber concessions in Sabah but was allowed bail of RM2 million with two sureties for the two cases.

Aswadi Alias/NST

On the 30 counts of corruption, Musa in his capacity as Sabah chief minister and Sabah Foundation Board of Trustees chairman allegedly received US$50.1 million from eight logging concessionaires as an inducement to approve logging concessions to 16 companies.

He is alleged to have committed the offences at eight banks and financial institutions in Hong Kong, China and Singapore between Dec 20, 2004, and Nov 6, 2008.

The charges were framed under Section 11(a) of the Anti-Corruption Act 1997, which carries a maximum imprisonment of 20 years and a fine not less than five times the amount of bribe or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

In reference to the 16 counts of money-laundering, Musa allegedly instructed Richard Christopher Barnes, 67, to open an account at UBS AG Bank, Singapore, under the name of Richard Christopher Barnes, through which he intended to receive proceeds from illegal activities.

The former chief minister allegedly received US$37,845,491.60 and another sum of S$2.5 million in proceeds from illegal activities from several individuals through the account under Barnes’ name.

The charges were framed under Section 4(1)(a) of AMLA, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, as well as a fine of no less than five times the amount of illegal proceeds or RM5 million — whichever is higher — upon conviction.

Musa was also accused of having concealed the proceeds of illegal activities.

No explanation has yet been given for the AGC’s decision to withdraw all 46 charges.

Musa’s lead defence counsel Amer Hamzah said the matter was cleared in a previous investigation, which found the money to be political contributions by party supporters, political donors, members of the public and from Barisan Nasional as well as Umno’s central leadership.

The money was to be used to fund election campaigns and other political activities.

“All the relevant documents have been supplied to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC),” Amer said in a statement today.

“At all material times, the political contributions did not involve any projects for the Sabah government, timber concessions and were never done on a quid pro quo basis.

Yusof Mat Isa

“The giving or receiving of political contributions is not an offence in Malaysia.”

Amer said the matter was clarified in a October 7, 2017 statement by the then MACC deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki who said the giving and receiving of political contributions is not an offence and that the anti-graft body has no jurisdiction in such matters.

“Based on the reasons given above, we believe Attorney-General Idrus Harun, along with the deputy public prosecutors handing this case, have objectively examined and weighed our representation filed at court, and have taken into consideration all legal aspects.”

Amer added that the prosecution may decline to prosecute further at any stage under Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code, as was done this morning.

Today’s acquittal means Musa cannot be tried again for the same offence.

In a statement, Musa thanked the prosecution and the judiciary for its objectivity, professionalism, impartiality and conduct without prejudice in evaluating the facts of the case.

“I thank my lawyers and their assistants for giving their best and dedicated services. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the prosecution and judiciary body in the country.

“I express my gratitude especially to those who have acted objectively, professionally, independently, and without prejudice in assessing the facts of the case for the past two years,” he said.

“The application to strike out the prosecution was filed early this year and was done in a meticulous manner and supported with statements and documents that were clear and undeniable proofs,” he added.

Musa said what has happened to him was due to “political differences” and took it as a test from God for him and his family.

Musa’s critics would likely see controversy in the ruling that was issued after the prosecution team decided to withdraw all charges.

It was reported that deputy public prosecutor Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid had informed the court of the Attorney General’s Chambers request to withdraw all 46 charges.

This is the second high-profile discharge of personalities linked to the previous Barisan Nasional administration since the new Perikatan Nasional government was installed in March.

Last month, Riza Shahriz Abd Aziz — the stepson of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak — was conditionally discharged of laundering over US$248 million (RM1.08 billion) in funds linked to the 1MDB scandal.