Funds seized in money laundering cases will be returned to the public – legal expert

SHAH ALAM, March 14 (Bernama) — The authorities or enforcement agencies can impose compounds with the consent of the prosecution in money laundering and corruption cases and the monies will be returned to the public through the Federal Consolidated Fund.

Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) legal advisor Assoc Prof Dr Haidar Dziyauddin said such compounds fell under Section 92 of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLA) 2001 and applied to cases where the accused was discharged not amounting to acquittal.

“Usually the compounds would involve large amounts and the authorities will reclaim the money used in corruption offences. The accused is expected to pay the set compound otherwise prosecution proceedings will begin once again upon their failure to pay.

“Compounds also save courts time and avoid lengthy trials as a guilty sentence is not a certainty, and this could result in the funds involved in corrupt offences becoming irreclaimable,” he said during a special interview session titled, “Why are there accused individuals in corruption cases who are discharged not amounting to acquittal” at UiTM here today.

He said many people assumed that a discharge not amounting to acquittal in a high profile case meant that the accused was free from prosecution and linked such verdicts to political sentiments.

“The assumption is wrong as there is a significant difference between being acquitted and discharged not amounting to acquittal, no matter if the individual is a public figure or an ordinary person. Being discharged not amounting to acquittal means that the prosecution can at any time recall the individual to face legal action.

“It’s worth remembering that the aim of such a discharge is to provide enforcement authorities time to obtain strong evidence relating to corruption as the process of tracking the illicit funds is complex, especially if new evidence comes to light,” Haidar said.

He said the court had the power to allow two such actions (discharge not amounting to acquittal and compounds) based on legal provisions not only enshrined in Malaysia, but accepted throughout legal circles worldwide.

“Malaysia is not the only country that has introduced the compound in such a manner,” he said.

Money laundering and corruption cases usually involved three stages to create a charge, placement, layering and integration to identify funds from illicit activities that have been deposited through complex transactions and then disguised as legitimate financial activities, he added.

“If someone is discharged not amounting to acquittal, it provides enforcement agencies the opportunity to identify corruption at its base and obtain more testimonies from parties involved, which will strengthen the case as it cannot be challenged by unsubstantiated evidence,” he said.

However, as there is no statute of limitations relating to someone who has been discharged not amounting to acquittal, Haidar suggested that a change be made to the legal process to introduce a reasonable duration to manage the case.

“Maybe there could be some amendments to the matter, if there is no statute of limitations, the accused could be seen as being in perpetual jeopardy because they could be re-prosecuted at any time and that will cause them to undergo tremendous stress,” he said.

Society should not compare offences under AMLA and the Penal Code as they both had different burdens of proof, he added.

Source: BERNAMA News Agency