March 21 decision on Aman Palestin's bid to lift freeze order

KUALA LUMPUR: The order to freeze Aman Palestin's bank account cannot be challenged by a judicial review as it falls under the discretionary powers of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) during an investigation, the High Court heard.

Senior Federal Counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly, who appeared for the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), said the power to issue freeze orders was one of the mechanisms for investigation provided in law and thus, was not amenable to a judicial review.

"Law enforcement agencies are vested with the power to issue an order to freeze a person's property upon the fulfilment of some conditions.

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"The issuance is only made when an enforcement agency has commenced an investigation against the person and there is reasonable ground to suspect either that the person committed or is about to commit a terrorism financing offence, or that the property is the proceeds from an unlawful activity," he said here on Tuesday (Feb 27).

SFC Ahmad Hanir also said the courts had upheld that the exercises of function or power in relation to criminal investigation processes were not amenable to judicial review.

The AGC was objecting to Aman Palestin's application to commence a judicial review against the MACC's order to freeze its bank accounts.

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Meanwhile, lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali, who represented Aman Palestin, argued that leave must be granted by the court for the applicant to commence judicial review on the grounds that the application has merits.

He said the MACC's refusal to vary the wrongful freeze order was unreasonable and did not follow the law.

He claimed that due to the freeze order, all of the contributions for Gaza, Palestine, which was under bombardment by Israel, had to stop.

"This became more dire when the winter aid programme, estimated to cost RM10mil, could not be channelled to the victims in Gaza," he said.

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High Court judge Justice Amarjeet Singh fixed March 21 to deliver his decision by email.

On Jan 31, Aman Palestin Bhd filed its application to initiate judicial review against the order to freeze its bank accounts.

It named MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki, MACC investigation division senior director Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hashim, MACC anti-money laundering division director Datuk Mohamad Zamri Zainul Abidin, MACC officers Mohd Afiq Mohammed Hassan and Muhammad Zuhdi Mohd Yusoff, the MACC and the government as the first to the seventh respondents.

Aman Palestin is seeking a certiorari order to set aside the MACC's decision relating to the order under Section 44(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorist Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 on Nov 24, whereby 11 bank accounts belonging to Aman Palestin were frozen.

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It also sought for a mandamus order for the MACC to vary the freeze order for a sum of RM11,026,215.60 to be unfrozen immediately for the purpose of daily expenses, staff salary, administration and operations for three months onwards.

It also sought a court declaration that the appellant could still collect funds from the public and directly channel it to war victims in Gaza.

On Feb 15, Aman Palestin executive chairman and its chief executive officer were among three individuals charged in the Shah Alam Sessions Court with 164 counts of criminal breach of trust, cheating and money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit in the company’s funds.

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