By INS Contributors

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) explained that former Felda board of directors’ member Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashid had returned the money before its investigations began over 29 alleged bribery charges and was acquitted because of that.

The MACC also said the acquittal was based on facts from the investigations.

MACC said the accused submitted his representation and statement of defence under Section 62 of the MACC Act 2009 during a trial, prompting further investigation.

“Based on the new findings and evidence, the accused proved that he had returned the money alleged to be bribes before the investigations had started,” it said.

The move by MACC has raised eyebrows, with Transparency International Malaysia (TI-M) president Muhammad Mohan calling for the commission to explain to the public the decision to withdraw 29 bribery charges.

“The former board member went through the trial with 24 prosecution witnesses being called, including bank officers and Companies Commission of Malaysia officials.

“However, it was reported that MACC, after studying the defence statement under Section 62 of the MACC Act, was satisfied that all transactions made as stated in the charges were advances that had been fully repaid,” he noted in a statement.

Muhammad questioned why this was not looked into when Noor Ehsanuddin was charged in the first place with 29 bribery charges.

“On the face of it, the mere fact that these were ‘advances’ or ‘advances that have been repaid’ does not make a transaction any less corrupt as originally alleged as ‘advances’ are part of ‘gratification’ under the MACC Act,” he stressed.

Muhammad said MACC should clarify this matter to avoid any trust deficit on the agency by the public.

Separately, anti-corruption activist Lalitha Kunaratnam said this raises the question of whether the investigation by the MACC was ineffective, incomplete and defective from the start.

Lalitha said a high-quality investigation would have included an examination of all evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory,the review of assets and premises of the organisation/individual and the collection and analysis of documents and other material, among others.

"Investigations of corruption cases are often very complex, since they usually involve a multitude of relevant actors and targets, movement of assets and financial vehicles. Hence, MACC cannot absolve itself of its responsibility. Conviction of a criminal is the ultimate test of a justice system.

"MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki’s assurances of neither political interference nor interference from certain parties in high-profile corruption cases ring hollow and cannot help to preserve its good name and integrity if after years of investigations and trials, before the case is dismissed," she said.