Appeals Court acquits Perhilitan officer accused of submitting false claims

PUTRAJAYA: The Court of Appeal has set aside a four-year jail sentence and RM117,000 fine on a Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) officer from Peninsular Malaysia, who was previously convicted on charges of submitting false claims.

A three-member bench led by Justice Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera unanimously found the final appeal by Abu Zahrim Ismail, 48, had merit and the statutory presumption under Section 50 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act had no application to the fact of the case.

“The Deputy Public Prosecutor urged the court to order a retrial. We find that such an order will cause injustice and grave prejudice to the appellant (Abu Zahrim).

“Hence, the appeal by the appellant is allowed and the orders of the Sessions Court and High Court set aside,” said Justice Vazeer Alam who sat together with Justices Datuk Supang Lian and Datuk Seri Mariana Yahya on Monday (Jan 17).

Justice Vazeer Alam also ordered the appellant be acquitted and discharged from the charge and the fine paid and bail to be refunded to Abu Zahrim, who has been suspended from service since 2013.

The judge further said that the Sessions Court in ruling that a prima facie case had been established and upon invoking Section 50, had imposed a higher burden on the appellant, resulting in serious prejudice to the appellant which warranted the appellate court’s intervention.

The court also held that the imposition of duty on the appellant to give an explanation to the charge against him was beyond what the law requires.

“The law merely requires the appellant to raise a reasonable doubt,” said Justice Vazeer Alam.

During the proceedings, Abu Zahrim was represented by counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik and M. Athimulan while Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Poi Yoke appeared for the prosecution.

On Aug 27, 2018, Abu Zahrim was sentenced to four years’ jail and fined RM117,000 or 10 months’ jail in default by the Kuantan Sessions Court after he was found guilty of submitting false claims. The verdict was upheld by the Kuantan High Court on May 10, 2019.

The Sessions Court ruled that Abu Zahrim was guilty of submitting false claims over the purchase of 28 units of Deuter 75 litre bags and 60 units of Dry Pack 30-litre bags.

He was accused of deceiving his director-general over the supply of the litre bags worth RM23,400, using the company name, Baraplas Kreatif Enterprise, at the Taman Negara Perhilitan Enforcement Office in Jerantut on Nov 28, 2013.

Abu Zahrim was charged under Section 18 of the MACC Act 2009, and sentenced under Section 24 of the same act that carries a maximum of 20 years’ imprisonment and RM10,000 fine or a fine of five times the sum involved, upon conviction. – Bernama

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