Report: Under fire for lawyer detention, MACC denies interference, says probed for embezzlement and abuse of power

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

PETALING JAYA, June 11 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has come under fire from Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) for detaining a lawyer and questioning another for representing a client in court.

Lawyer Lai Chee Hoe said, during a press conference today, that MACC officers had visited his office on June 4 to investigate his firm, over a strata management dispute case.

According to The Edge, Lai claimed that the MACC is investigating the client that he represents in court.

He alleged that the MACC raided his office, questioned him at its headquarters in Putrajaya, and then detained him.

Lai further stated that the MACC sought a remand extension for him until June 8, but his lawyer, Amer Hamzah, intervened and wrote a letter to the magistrate, leading to Lai's release on June 6 on RM20,000 bail with the condition to report periodically to the MACC headquarters.

Lai claimed that before his release, the MACC imposed three conditions on him.

“The MACC officers told me, do not give a press conference, do not join the management body meetings and withdraw yourself from the case as a lawyer,” he told the press conference.

Another lawyer, Irwin Lo, claimed that he was also questioned by the MACC for representing the same client but was not detained.

He said he was only questioned and asked to provide relevant documents.

LFL director Zaid Malek criticised the MACC's actions as a clear threat and harassment against the lawyers, stating that the MACC has no authority to summon lawyers and demand case-related documents.

“MACC has no power to ask lawyers to come in and investigate lawyers and demand documents for cases they are conducting.

“This is not something the MACC should do and it’s a cause for concern because it relates to the administration of justice,” he was quoted as saying.

Zaid said he hopes that MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki would issue a statement to clarify the situation and mentioned that all legal options would be considered.

Responding to the allegations, Azam defended the MACC to The Edge, stating that the anti-graft body was investigating Lai for embezzlement and abuse of power, while Irwin was sought to assist in the investigations.

“Lai acted as the legal advisor and is the former chairman of the joint management body (of the property in question); he, together with several committee members, were suspected of abusing their power to embezzle funds in the management and maintenance account.

“There is no issue of interference with the right of public legal representation,” he was quoted as saying.

He also refuted claims that his officers had imposed the three conditions mentioned by Lai.

Azam emphasised that there was no interference with the right to legal representation and that Lai was remanded to investigate his role in the case.

“The focus of the investigation team was on the issue of abuse of power and embezzlement carried out by Lai and not to get information on his client,” Azam was quoted as saying.