MACC should only launch a probe into Nazlan if there are grounds to suspect graft after police investigation.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should let police investigate judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali’s report against a blog that made corruption allegations against him, and only then take up the case if there are grounds to suspect graft, a prominent lawyer said.
Mohd Haniff Khatri Abdulla was responding to the probe by the anti-graft agency against Nazlan – now a Court of Appeal judge – who found former prime minister Najib Razak guilty of corruption as a High Court judge in 2020.
Haniff said to avoid confusion and a replication of investigations, MACC must first allow police to look into the matter since Nazlan had lodged a report to deny the claims made about him by blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) in the Malaysia Today blog.
“On April 21, Nazlan, a respected judge, had lodged a police report so that the allegation made by Malaysia Today can be probed. So, when a report is lodged, it is compulsory that the police look into it (to find if) there is any substance.
“If there is any basis to probe Malaysia Today, then the police, with the assistance of Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), must get the Interpol and the authorities in the United Kingdom through mutual legal assistance to get Raja Petra back to Malaysia if there is a crime committed.
“But if there is basis on Raja Petra’s side, then the anti-graft body can start working on the case, but as for now, MACC must let the cops investigate the matter because Nazlan has already lodged a report against RPK,” Haniff said.
Raja Petra, on Malaysia Today, wrote that Nazlan had received RM1 million in his Maybank account, allegedly from fugitive businessman and 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) mastermind Low Taek Jho.
Police have not said if they have commenced any investigation into Nazlan’s police report against the blog.
Nazlan, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal in February this year, had in the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Najib guilty of corruption involving RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd funds in July 2020. He also sentenced Najib to 12 years’ jail and a RM210 million fine.
Prior to becoming a judge, Nazlan had served as general counsel for Maybank.
The office of the Chief Registrar of the Federal Court said Nazlan’s police report was made so that investigations under the penal code, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and other legal provisions could be carried out.
Section 500 of the penal code covers criminal defamation, while section 233 of the Communication and Multimedia Act deals with the publication of offensive content on the internet.
Haniff is of the view that given overlapping reports to the police and MACC over this issue, the AGC should set up a special task force.
“The point of having this task force would be to ensure that there is no overlap in terms of investigation and this will allow a smooth and transparent probe. The task force can determine if there is any basis from what RPK had said or if there is no basis at all,” said Haniff.
He clarified that he was not saying that the judge should not be probed, as no one is above the law.
The MACC’s probe into Nazlan has ignited outcry from various quarters who see it as attempts to discredit the guilty verdict on Najib, who still wields political influence and is speculated to be wanting to make a comeback.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and the Malaysian Bar were among those who called for the probe on Nazlan to be halted, saying the judiciary has its own mechanism to monitor and investigate the integrity of judges.
Malaysian Bar president Karen Cheah, meanwhile, said the MACC probe, which stemmed from an unverified blog post, undermines judicial independence and the rule of law.
Cheah also said it creates a climate of fear and intimidation for the judiciary, which ultimately is bad for Malaysia.
Former High Court judge Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof believed that the MACC should not have a hand in investigations into Nazlan.
He said for an allegation from a “long-distance blogger” the Federal Constitution and the judge’s code of ethics prescribed the manner that should be used.
“To respect the principle of separation of powers and protect the position of judges who should not be embroiled in such a reckless allegation, the MACC should not be involved,” said Ariff, who is also a former speaker of the Dewan Rakyat.
PKR lawmaker Hassan Abdul Karim branded the move by MACC to swiftly act against Nazlan as an attack on the judiciary.
Hassan, who is also a member in one of the MACC’s five oversight bodies, the Committee on Corruption, said such action ran counter to the principles of separation of powers of governance.
“MACC’s involvement is not just a violation of the principle of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, but it is also an attack by an executive agency on the judiciary,” he said. – TMI