MACC chief Latheefa vows no kid gloves for VIPs

Ida Lim
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Latheefa Koya speaks during a press conference after the Parliament Special Select Committee meeting in Kuala Lumpur July 4, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 16 — VIPs will be treated the same as ordinary people when they are investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), said Latheefa Koya.

The MACC chief commissioner, known for her no-nonsense approach, noted that such VIPs may attempt to wield their influence when they come under her commission’s scrutiny.

However, she assured them that this will not result in any form of preferential treatment.

“The individual that is investigated has many supporters or financial sources and that may muddy the investigation.

“But the investigation steps will still be the same with the individual required to be present either as a suspect or witness and we will carry out investigations,” she was quoted as saying in an interview with local daily Sinar Harian published today.

“If the suspect wishes to obtain legal services, we will allow and if that individual has to be remanded, it would be done whether VIP or not. We will give the same treatment,” she added.

She noted that some individuals may try to use their prominence to plead their case.

But Latheefa said such tactics will not dissuade MACC investigators from completing their tasks.

“For MACC, we prove that someone can be a VVIP, VIP or former prime minister, if there is a case, we will take action,” she said.

Prior to Latheefa’s appointment as the head of the anti-graft body, MACC’s investigations has already resulted in many prominent individuals — especially from the Barisan Nasional era such as former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak — being charged in court over alleged corruption.

Latheefa was appointed as the MACC chief on June 1 for a two-year period, becoming the first woman to fill the top graft-buster position.

In the same interview with Sinar Harian, Latheefa said she was told several weeks prior of her possible appointment, but only received confirmation the same day it was announced.

Latheefa was not shocked at becoming the first woman to head MACC as she noted Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s penchant for appointing women to important posts.

However, she said she was surprised that her reputation for being a controversial and outspoken human rights lawyer did not prevent her selection.

Latheefa then suggested that the PM may have been looking for just such a personality to lead the MACC, before adding that there were no laws that prevented an outsider from taking on the role.

She said the majority of past MACC chiefs had been administrative officers, except for only a few appointed from within MACC.

Latheefa also cleared the air over any concerns about her past political affiliation, noting that she never contested in general elections and was already inactive in PKR for more than a year before she resigned to accept her appointment.

Latheefa insisted she was better known as a lawyer and more active with the human rights advocacy group Lawyers for Liberty that her former party.

In the interview, Latheefa vowed to conduct herself as MACC chief with impartiality.

On her first year targets, Latheefa said she is preparing a checklist that would be made public later and aiming to focus on achieving specific results.

“So one of my targets is to show that at such time this is the number of corruption cases and after I came in, I hope to see the number of corruption cases reduce,” she said of plans to educate the public on matters such as avoiding being trapped in a system that puts them in debt and then being involved in corruption.

Latheefa warned that false reports with the MACC would result in legal repercussions, both from her commission and the party falsely accused.

She also urged complainants not to publicly disclose their reports to avoid jeopardising the MACC’s investigations or tipping off the suspects.

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