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Lawyer detained by MACC refutes its claim that he had served as joint management committee chairman

Publish date: Wed, 12 Jun 2024, 10:21 PM

KUALA LUMPUR (June 12): A lawyer who was detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) last week has come out to say that the graft buster did not tell him that he was being investigated for embezzlement and abuse of power.

In a statement to the media, lawyer Lai Chee Hoe said MACC’s claim that he was being investigated for embezzlement and abuse of power for his purported role as the former chairman of a joint management committee (JMC) of a property was never mentioned to him when he was detained.

“The allegation against me for embezzlement and abuse of power of my role is new to me (never was it mentioned during my detention and up to my release),” he said.

On Tuesday, human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) held a press conference with Lai over his detention. The lawyer said at the press conference that MACC had raided his office on June 4 to investigate his firm, which acted as lawyers in a strata management dispute for one of the parties in court.

Lai said he was questioned at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya after which he was detained. According to him, MACC was investigating the party he is representing.

However, when contacted after the press conference, MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said Lai was being investigated for embezzlement and abuse of power for his role as the former chairman of the JMC.

“Lai acted as legal adviser and is the former chairman of the joint management body; he together with several committee members were suspected of abusing their power to embezzle funds in the management and maintenance account,” Azam told The Edge.

In his statement on Wednesday, Lai said he had never been a member of the JMC and had never held any position in the committee.

LFL director Zaid Malek, meanwhile, accused Azam of failing to ascertain the truth about Lai as he never was a chairman of the JMC.

“In his haste to deny wrongdoing on the part of the MACC, the chief commissioner totally failed to even ascertain the true facts of the case. This throws into doubt the entirety of the chief commissioner's denial of wrongdoing by the MACC in this case,” he said in a separate statement.

On Tuesday, MACC had also released a statement saying it will not bow to pressure or accusations in the course of its investigations.

It claimed it had the right under Section 31 of the MACC Act to investigate Lai and raid his premises.

Section 31, which touches on the commission's power of search and seizure, gives the graft buster the right to enter any premises to search, confiscate and retrieve any books, documents, account records, or data, and to search or detain any person encountered in such premises to facilitate its investigations.

Zaid, however, noted that Section 31 merely lays out MACC's powers of search and seizure. "In no way does Section 31 authorise contravening lawyer-client privilege."

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