PETALING JAYA: The terrorism-related provisions in the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2003 do not place a higher burden on accountants and lawyers, only greater responsibility, said the Attorney-General.
“These terms we have proposed are in use in various international conventions and protocols. They are internationally accepted terms,” said Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail.
“One of the things you must remember, and I equate these laws to the ISA (Internal Security Act), is that you cannot be exact. The moment you are exact, you cannot work.
“Terrorism works in different manners. It’s very hard to pinpoint,” he said when asked about several wide terms in the bill - such as “reasonable” and “indirectly” - and about Clause 130(o) of the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill, which referred specifically to accountants and lawyers.
During an interview with The Star on Sept 11, Gani had answered questions on several current issues, including the far-reaching repercussions of the proposed amendments to the Penal Code.
He said the amendments were in keeping with the Government’s commitment to deal with terrorism.
He said the bill and the Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill 2003 were among four terrorism-related bills which had been tabled for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat two weeks ago, adding that a fifth would be tabled at a later date.
The Malaysian Institute of Accountants and the Bar Council had expressed their concern over Clause 130(o).
A report in The Star on Monday quoted the two governing bodies as saying the provision placed an onerous responsibility on accountants and lawyers by penalising those with “reasonable grounds to believe” that the financial services and facilities they provided would be used in the commissioning of a terrorist act.
When asked what definition of “reasonable” would be applied in a trial since it appeared frequently in several clauses in the bill, Gani had said:
“It’s the 'reasonable man' test. It refers to what is reasonable for a person in that profession.”
On whether there was a higher burden on accountants and lawyers since the two professions had been specifically mentioned, he said:
“I would say, responsibility. I don’t think it’s a higher burden.”
“Money laundering has always been an offence, don’t forget that; but we have not always been able to get them because of the existing laws.
“The only difference now is that they cannot hide behind a veil.
“If they suspect their client, they will have to report the person or organisation to the police.”
Citing several examples, Gani stressed that accountants and lawyers would know from the transactions and the movement of money whether their client was laundering ill-gotten money or whether the money was going into the account of a person or an organisation suspected of having terrorist links.
“As a reasonable person, if you don’t see anything wrong from the transactions, then you have nothing to worry about,” he said when asked if Clause 130(o) would make it especially difficult for accountants giving tax or investment advice.
The A-G interview: Candid replies to current public concernsAttorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail is not an easy man to catch. But he was more than willing to discuss several issues in depth and the need for changes in the Malaysian mindset,writes SHAILA KOSHY,in the first of a two-part interview.