UALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — Anti-graft group, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), said today the acquittal of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng from two corruption charges linked to a property sale worth over RM2 million, had “raised suspicious flags.”
Its executive director, Cynthia Gabriel, said the High Court’s decision came as an extreme surprise and raises questions about the independence of government institutions and if they are free from partisan interests.
“The ease at which he was acquitted, even when the prosecution asked for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, raises highly suspicious flags,” Gabriel said in a statement.
“C4 Centre is concerned that our venerable institutions are subject to political interference and/or partisan motivations when it comes to corruption,” she added.
C4’s statement echoed the response given by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which released a short statement expressing shock by the court’s decision shortly after the court ruling this morning.
In the same statement, the commission stressed that the decision to withdraw the case was decided by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and not by the MACC.
The move has prompted allegations of political interference, and critics, including C4, have demanded an explanation from the Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.
But Gabriel said the onus is also on the MACC to clarify how Lim could have been easily acquitted if the commission had built a strong case against the minister.
This, she suggested, could also imply that the charges against Lim may have been politically-motivated and the AGC had solid grounds for withdrawing the charges.
“This development in the Lim Guan Eng case begs transparent explanations from the MACC and the AGC,” Gabriel said.
“If they’re (MACC) expressing shock, then they are pushing the responsibility solely to the AG’s chambers.
“If they believed there was a case, MACC must explain to the public of the initial reasons for recommending charges to be pressed in the first place. We may also need to consider disciplinary sanctions over this imbroglio.”
At the same time, former de facto law minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman in her criticism against the decision, urged the government to separate prosecution powers from the AGC.
“I have raised this in parliament several times, the AGC and prosecution powers must be separated and made independent off each other to prevent political interference,” she said in a statement today.
Lim’s acquittal have also tainted AGC’s image and raised serious questions about Thomas’ impartiality as he can be seen imparting “favouritism and preferential treatment to Pakatan Harapan leaders”, the Umno leader said.
Other government leaders have also had charges against them dropped shortly after Thomas was made AG, Azalina noted.
They include Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Karim, Kampar MP Thomas Su, Sungai Buloh MP R. Sivarasa, and former Padang Serai MP N. Surendan.
Umno youth chief and former deputy minister Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, accused the AGC of selective prosecution.
He said Thomas had weak grounds to withdraw the charges, including in Lim’s case, an allegation backed by the MACC’s reaction to the AGC’s actions.
“It is a historical black spot for New Malaysia under the PH government,” he said in a statement.
“Members of the public sold by the new government’s so-called Rule of Law mantra must be wondering about the justification to withdraw the charges against Lim,” he added.
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