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Shafee allowed to get passport to travel to Australia to attend to client

PUTRAJAYA (June 21): Lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (pictured), who is facing money laundering charges totaling RM9.5 million succeeded in his bid to reclaim his passport to travel to Australia for work purposes.

A Court of Appeal three-member bench comprising Justices Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi, Datuk Rhodzariah Bujang and Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah allowed Muhammad Shafee's application for the release of his passport to travel to Sydney, Australia from June 24 until July 1.

"We are of the view that there was a real need for the applicant (Muhammad Shafee) to be with the solicitors and client there," said Justice Ahmadi who chaired the bench.

He said there was no evidence that Muhammad Shafee was a flight risk, adding that the prosecution has not shown any evidence of him being a flight risk.

"We are mindful that the accused person in the Australia case is entitled to have a solicitor of his own choice," Justice Ahmadi said. 

His counsel Harvinderjit Singh told the court that Muhammad Shafee would return his passport to the court by July 3 and would also report his return from Australia.

Muhammad Shafee is facing two charges of money laundering involving RM9.5 million that he allegedly received from former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

He was also charged under the Income Tax Act with two counts of making false declarations to the Inland Revenue Board by not including the RM9.5 million in his tax filing for the year.

On May 14, this year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Muhammad Shafee's application for the release of his passport, which was impounded by the court, to attend to a client, a Malaysian, who is facing drug trafficking charges in a court in Australia.

High Court judge Collin Lawrence Sequerah held that Muhammad Shafee's presence in Australia, requested in a letter dated May 13, 2019, was merely to assist in the case as there were Australian solicitors on record.

Earlier, in today's proceeding at the Court of Appeal, Harvinderjit Singh submitted that Muhammad Shafee was not a flight risk and that he had traveled overseas four times after the charges and had returned to Malaysia.

"He has got three wives, his family are all here. There is no reason for him not to come back," he said adding that his client in Australia needed legal advice on whether to contest the charge or enter into a plea bargain.

Deputy public prosecutor Afzainizam Abdul Aziz countered saying that Muhammad Shafee had no reason to be in Australia as the client has a local counsel.

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