KUALA LUMPUR: There are no plans to review the use of the Anti-Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (Amla) against Umno, says Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
Although the authorities could either review or withdraw the use of the law to freeze Umno's bank accounts, Lim said it would not be done owing to ongoing investigations into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
“As for Umno, the case is related to ongoing investigations in connection to the 1MDB scandal.
“We could review (the use of the law) if the investigations were not related to the 1MDB scandal but this is not disputed,” he said when answering a supplementary question by Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) during Question Time in Parliament on Wednesday (March 20).
Ahmad wanted to know why Amla had been used to freeze Umno's bank accounts for such a long period.
“There was a Court of Appeal decision last July which decided that Amla cannot be used for more than 90 days to freeze a bank account.
“But in Umno's case, it has been used more than 90 days and this has made it difficult to pay the salaries of Umno staff.
“This is a cruel thing to do by the Pakatan Harapan government,” Ahmad said.
To this, Lim said that Amla had been used by the previous government for longer periods.
“If you say it is cruel, then the previous government is also cruel as it had used the law to freeze accounts for even longer periods,” Lim said.
Earlier, to a question by Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam), Lim said that Amla would not be used an arbitrary weapon by the authorities if enforced in a proper manner.
“That is why when Pakatan took over the government, it ordered authorities involved in revenue collection such as the Inland Revenue Board to stop raiding homes and offices,” he said.
He noted the previous administration had used such laws to penalise the then opposition or those who were against the government.
Lim assured lawmakers that stern action will be taken against any enforcement officers who abused Amla.
As a check and balance, he said that any seizure of property under the law must be approved by the Deputy Public Prosecutor and not the enforcement agency concerned.
Dr Wee asked if Amla could be improved to uphold the legal presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty and that the law is not used as a weapon by the enforcement agencies.
Earlier, Lim said that the use of anti-money laundering law is crucial in stemming the outflow of illicit money from the country.
Based on a Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report, Lim said that RM132bil was laundered in 2015 from Malaysia, placing it third out of 148 developing countries affected by the flow of illicit money.
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