KOTA KINABALU: Collective co-operation is critical if Asean is to ensure that South-East Asia does not become a haven for organised crime.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said member countries must quickly iron out procedural differences in the region’s legal systems.
He said effective international crackdown on crime was increasingly needed in today’s world where globalisation not only opened borders to economic activity but also to criminals.
“We cannot allow them to escape justice just because of differences among our legal systems and laws.
“We cannot allow them to walk free just because procedural and administrative differences impede obtaining evidence of their crime,” he said yesterday in his keynote address at the opening of the three-day meeting of the Asean Attorneys-General on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty.
Abdullah said although several informal and formal bilateral treaties had been agreed among Asean member countries, Malaysia believed that a regional instrument in the form of a treaty would be a cost and time-saving device.
He said the international treaty proposed by Malaysia was aimed at forging mutual assistance and co-operation in restraining and confiscating the proceeds of criminals.
Under the treaty, the governing principle for mutual assistance must be to provide the widest scope of aid possible and to provide that aid in a useable form to the requesting country, he said.
The treaty would also provide for a central authority to handle all requests for mutual assistance and which would also serve as a link to the respective governments.
Participating countries under the treaty would have to enact laws to carry out the mutual assistance in criminal matters regime, Abdullah said in noting that Malaysia had enacted a Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act last year.
He also said the treaty aimed to standardise conditions for granting mutual assistance in criminal matters, the grounds for refusal of requests as well as the forms and procedures in handling such requests.
The Deputy Prime Minister said though informal networks among law enforcement agencies of Asean countries had the advantage of speed, confidentiality and effectiveness, such arrangements were limited.
All 10 Asean countries were represented at the closed-door meeting on the proposed treaty by their Ministers of Justice or Attorneys-General.