1MDB Task Force has no legal grounds to arrest Najib, claims Malaysian Bar Council

The Malaysian Bar has launched criticisms against the 1MDB Special Task Force regarding their announcement of former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s arrest yesterday.

George Varughese, the Bar Council’s president, said on 3 July that the task force does not have any legal authority in making such arrests.

“The Malaysian Bar is shocked and troubled by the press statement issued today by the 1MDB task force announcing that Najib Razak was arrested at 2.35pm in connection with SRC International Sdn Bhd and that the former prime minister will be charged on July 4, 2018 at 8.30am at the Kuala Lumpur Court,” he said.

SRC International is a former 1MDB subsidiary. It is now reassigned under the Ministry of Finance.

Varughese insisted that such an arrest could only be carried out by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) or the police.

“It therefore begs the following questions on whether the task force is legally empowered to order the arrest and to charge Najib,” he said.

Current MACC chief commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull is one of the members of the 1MDB Special Task Force who had signed the statement regarding Najib’s arrest.

Three other members who signed the statement are former Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail, former MACC chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed, and former Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM or Malaysian Royal Police Force) Special Branch deputy director Abdul Hamid Bador.

Najib was arrested by the MACC at his home at Jalan Langgak Duta in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Meanwhile, lawyer SN Nair commented that only the Attorney-General (AG) cum public prosecutor Tommy Thomas, who is poised to lead the prosecution against Najib, could have rightfully had the authority to make announcements regarding such arrests.

Speaking to Free Malaysia Today, he said that it is unlawful for anyone other than the Attorney-General himself to perform functions under the scope of the A-G.

Elaborating on the issue, he said that “Thomas should not be seen as abdicating his power and authority as only the public prosecutor could frame charges against an accused person.”

The task force’s scope of action has recently been queried by lawyers in investigations and prosecutions over the 1MDB scandal.

Malaysian netizens’ reactions towards Varughese’s statement on Najib’s arrest have been overwhelmingly critical, as illustrated below.

Gerard Lourdesamy said:

The task force did not arrest Najib. The arrest was done by the MACC and it was confirmed by the AG. The task force merely issued the statement. They did not authorize the arrest. The Bar Council is overreacting here.

Fair Play wrote:

George Varughese, when the relevant authorities (MACC, PDRM, AGCM, etc) did nothing, you (Malaysian Bar) protested. Now when they started to act with incredible speed, all you are capable of is talking about technicalities. If you keep quiet, nobody would say you are dumb.

Bear Beruang chimed in, saying that the 1MDB task force was probably not as ignorant of the law as allegedly perceived:

BC, you are hooting for much ado about nothing. You keep harping about technicalities that are too minute. These folks would not jeopardise the prosecution case by being sloppy at that. Now you had your two seconds of cheap publicity its time to be smart.

guyintheglass suggested:

If the Bar is troubled by the press statement being issued by the task force, then move beyond that and ask, who carried out the arrest. After all, the MACC chief commissioner is also part of the task force. I supposed it will be ok if the press statement has been issued by the chief commissioner.

Legit commented:

It is the MACC which arrested him and the Task Force only announced it. Any Ahmad, Ah Chong and Muthu can make the announcement. If I knew it earlier I would done it too. Bar Council, aren’t you spliting hairs here!

Askmela suggested:

Who carry out the arrest? If 1MDB Taskforce issued a statement is not appropriate, let MACC issue & close the matters. If is not legal, Najib just get a lawyer to sue the taskforce. Let the rule of law take the course. Don’t focus on minute matters, like police eat his chocolate & make a scene. Focus in the case please & do necessary recovery to right the wrongs…

The Wakandan speculated:

These lawyers are probably looking for some spillovers. With all the coming court cases which arise from what the MACC are doing now to catch all the wrongdoers and there are plenty of them, it is a windfall for the lawyers. This shameless idiot is obviously taking advantage of the situation to be heard, perhaps to raise his own stock. The task force is not doing the arresting, just announcing, being spokesman. He makes a big deal of it. Well, this is lawyers turf and he needs to be relevant.

However, there are a few dissenting voices expressing concern against the manner in which the 1MDB task force had made the announcement regarding the former Prime Minister’s arrest, echoing Varughese and the Malaysian Bar’s sentiment that the MACC or police should have carried out the arrest and even made the announcement regarding the arrest:

Calling It As It Is said:

Like it or not, the Bar Council is right. The task force must be perceived to be objective and neutral. And most importantly it must operate within the boundaries set. It’s not up to them to decide whether Najib should be charged. Their job is to ascertain whether 1MDB has ran foul of the laws and then present the necessary evidence to the authorities. They (the police/ MACC) then decides what’s next.

RedHero wrote:

Maybe George has a point here. Let’s make sure the case is not thrown out on technical issues. But I understood that the 1MDB task force investigated the case but it was MACC who made the arrest.

Dawn of a New Era said:

George has made a valid point. the 1MDB special task force is not the right body to make the announcement. MACC should have done it.

Annonnymous 080 wrote:

Let these Bar Council clowns get their few seconds of fame here…BTW, it is also not proper for the task force to make announcement as it is the duty of AG n PDRM. It’s better to err on the cautious side

Singh is King expressed concern over the potential maltreatment of the accused in detention:

Why is there a need to arrest Najib a day earlier before he is charged ? There’s no requirement in law for such arrest. Obviously, Najib is not going to abscond overnight. There’s just too much of abuse of powers by MACC, the police and other Enforcement agencies. Why can’t they be professional like the Securities Commission where person to be charged is arrested in the morning and brought to court to be charged. No need sleep one night in the lockup. A person is innocent until proven guilty. Please stop all these abuse especially by MACC and the police.

Hopelessly has also expressed apprehension over the potential for abuse of power in the investigations and the eventual arrest, as well as the alleged procedural irregularities in several matters:

Indeed quite a few matters didn’t follow the proper procedures. Appointment of new MACC chief is one of them. Blacklisting Najib from travelling without court order is another. PH gov has a long way to prove their honesty.

Gaji Buta said:

Must be side effect of all these Marvel and DC movies. Everyone wants to be a super hero – Daim, LGE and now 1MDB task force.