ANTI-CORRUPTION campaigners were startled by the decision of the Sessions Court in Butterworth last month to sentence a senior federal counsel to jail for one day and fine of RM130,000 after he pleaded guilty to three charges of accepting bribes amounting to RM700,000 last year.
They would have been quick to point out that in contrast, more severe sentences have been meted out in cases of petty theft, such as on a labourer in Terengganu who was jailed 15 months for stealing petai, and on an unemployed man who was sentenced to 10 months’ jail for stealing RM50 from a fund belonging to a mosque.
Under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009, punishment for corruption-related offences are imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years, and a fine of not less than five times the sum of the gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher.
The previous Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) 1997 carried a more severe punishment, namely a mandatory jail sentence of not less than 14 days and not exceeding 20 years and fines amounting to five times the bribe amount or RM10,000 (whichever is higher).
In comparison, under Section 406 of the Penal Code, penalty for criminal breach of trust (CBT) is imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping. The convicted person would also be liable to a fine.
For cheating, the penalty under Section 420 of the Penal Code is imprisonment for a term of not less than one year and not more than 10 years and with whipping, and also a fine.
Corruption is far more serious when compared with other offences such as CBT, cheating and even homicide because it has far-reaching consequences. Compared to, for example homicide, which generally involves the offender and the victim’s family, corruption affects the wider public as the money could otherwise have been used on healthcare services or in the building of new schools and roads.
The theory of deterrence developed by Hobbes, Beccaria and Bentham states that “the more severe a punishment, the more likely that offenders will desist from criminal acts.”
Therefore, the one-day jail sentence for corruption cases should be scrapped. It would be more appropriate under the MACC Act 2009 to impose a mandatory jail time of at least two months with a minimum of two strokes of the rotan plus a fine.
A heavier sentence coupled with a longer prison term with whipping will open the eyes of the public to the fact that corruption will surely lead to the ruin of not only the persons involved but their entire family as well.
DATUK SERI AKHBAR SATAR
Malaysia Association of Certified Fraud Examiners