Rights group slams MACC for arresting lawyers in property dispute

Lawyers for Liberty director Zaid Malek denounces the MACC for arresting two lawyers representing a property management company in civil court. – Facebook pic, June 12, 2024.

LAWYERS for Liberty (LFL) has slammed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission for detaining and allegedly harassing two lawyers who were acting for a property management company in several civil suits.

LFL director Zaid Malek said the agency had conducted itself in an unjustifiable manner,

“MACC breaching the public’s sacrosanct right to legal representation? What lies behind all this?” Zaid said in a statement

“It is obvious here that the MACC chief (Azam Baki) has utterly failed to conduct a proper enquiry and get the facts of the complaint ascertained before issuing a response.”

Zaid was referring to Azam’s response yesterday to two lawyers who said they were detained, intimidated, and harassed in the discharge of their duties.

“This was followed by a statement from the MACC issued yesterday evening repeating Azam’s denials.”

Azam had said in the statement that lawyer Lai Chee Hoe was under investigation for embezzlement and abuse of power in his role as the former chairman of the joint management committee (JMC).

Zaid said it is unacceptable for Azam to deny the lawyers’ complaints before even looking into their allegations.

“Lai was never the chairman nor a member of the said JMC as falsely claimed by Azam in his response yesterday.

“Lai was merely acting as the lawyer for said JMC at the material time. In his haste to deny wrongdoing on the part of the MACC, Azam totally failed to even ascertain the facts of the case.

“This throws into doubt the entirety of Azam’s denial of wrongdoing by the MACC in this case.”

Zaid also questioned MACC officers’ demand that the lawyer withdraw from his client’s case.

“What has this to do with the purported embezzlement investigation?

“When the lawyer was in custody, the questions asked and the statement recorded by the MACC had nothing to do with any embezzlement investigation.

“Instead, the MACC asked extensive questions about the legal case in which the lawyers were involved, blatantly contrary to lawyer-client privilege which is protected under Malaysian law.

“MACC cannot now deny this as the statement recorded from the lawyers is a public document which can be disclosed in due course.”

Zaid said Azam had failed to explain why the other lawyer, Irwin Lo, was asked to disclose documents protected by lawyer-client privilege by MACC officers regarding the case he was handling for the JMC.

“This unlawful demand by MACC officers is proven by the WhatsApp communication by the MACC officer to the lawyer, which was disclosed at the press conference. That in the face of this evidence, the MACC continues their denials is brazen and astonishing.

“We are baffled that the MACC is relying upon section 31 of the MACC Act 2009 to justify its actions on Lai and Irwin. Section 31 merely lays out the MACC’s powers of search and seizure.

“In no way does section 31 authorise contravening lawyer-client privilege. For MACC to rely upon section 31 is desperate and irrelevant.”

He added that it is a cardinal and basic principle of law that communications between an advocate and his client are privileged and cannot be disclosed by him to any other parties, even to enforcement agencies.

“This principle is contained in section 126 of the Evidence Act 1950 and has been upheld by the Courts. Nothing in section 31 of the MACC Act allows MACC to disregard lawyer-client privilege.

“As such, we demand that the federal government step in and ensure that a proper inquiry is made regarding these allegations against the MACC.” – June 12, 2024.

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