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Court dismisses MACC bid forfeit over RM1 million from UMNO Kedah and Habib Jewels

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KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here today dismissed the application by the prosecution to forfeit a sum of  RM1.15 million from Kedah UMNO Liaison Committee and Habib Jewels Sdn Bhd allegedly related to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fraudulent fund scandal.

Kedah UMNO Liaison Committee and Habib Jewels allegedly received the monies from former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak amounting RM1.05 million and RM100,000 respectively.

Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali dismissed the application by the prosecution, which was represented by the  Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy public prosecutor Allan Suman Pillai and Abdul Rashid Sulaiman, on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to prove its civil forfeiture cases against the two entities.

“For Kedah UMNO Liaison Committee it should be highlighted that the six cheques issued by Datuk Seri Najib totalled RM15 million and paid over a period of time between 2012 and 2013.

“The forfeiture application now relates to the balance standing to the credit of the current account of the respondent, which was frozen and later seized on June 25, 2018, which is the said amount of RM1,054,019.22. Affidavit evidence, however, shows that out of the six cheques, the last cheque payment of RM1 million was made in June 2013. The end balance as of June 30, 2013 was only about RM1.4 million,” said Mohd Nazlan in his judgment.

He said by then, the bulk of the RM15 million had left the account and the balance had, over time, declined to a low of RM58,000 at the opening balance on Jan 1, 2017.

“Furthermore, in the first four months of 2018 alone, which was just before the 14th General Election, more than RM27 million was deposited into the respondent’s account via 44 transactions, and during the same period, some RM26 million was paid out in 203 transactions.

“In short, in my view, it cannot be said that the sum of slightly more RM1 million, now remaining in the account and intended to be forfeited by the public prosecutor, constitutes part of the RM15 million paid by Najib a few years ago, given the very high number of deposits and withdrawals, and taking into consideration the balance sum recorded during the period after the deposit of the RM15 million in 2013 and the seizure of the account in 2018,” he said.

The judge said even if it was assumed that the RM15 million was proceeds of unlawful activity and that it was paid into the said account of the respondent, on a balance of probability, it could not be said that the sum in the account now sought to be forfeited was an evidence or subject matter relating to an offence under Section 4 of AMLATFPUA or that it was proceeds of an unlawful activity.

“For among others the foregoing reasons, I hereby dismiss the application,” he said.

Counsel G. Nadaraja appeared for Kedah UMNO Liaison Committee.

For the case of Habib Jewels,  Justice Mohd Nazlan said the monies received by the entity for the purchase of jewellery was done in a good faith in the ordinary course of the business of the respondent.

“The public prosecutor did not dispute this sale transaction, there is also no allegation of collusion or any form of wrongdoing made by the public prosecutor against the respondent.

“I am also satisfied that there was no reason for the respondent to believe that the payment by Najib for the jewellery sold by the respondent to Najib was proceeds of unlawful activity. The transactions were in 2014 which was prior to the allegations on the role of Najib concerning 1MDB being made public in the middle of 2015.

“Furthermore, there is no evidence that the financial institutions for both the payer bank account and the recipient bank account which effected the release of the RM100,000 from Najib’s account to that of the respondent had raised any concern in respect of the cheque deposit transaction. Accordingly, given that the respondent received the RM100,000 in good faith for valuable consideration an order can forfeiture cannot be made under Section 56,” he said.

Counsel Khoo Guan Huat and Gooi Yang Shuh represented Habib Jewels Sdn Bhd.

It was reported before MACC chief commissioner Latheefa Koya said it had filed forfeiture suit against 41 respondents in order to recover about RM270 million in funds linked to the 1MDB.

Latheefa said the move was in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) as the MACC alleged the money had been transferred from the bank account of Najib.

— BERNAMA

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