Umno able to get frozen RM192m back, says High Court

KUALA LUMPUR (June 19): The High Court has dismissed a stay application by the prosecution to hold the return of the frozen RM192.96 million to Umno and therefore the political party should be able to retrieve its funds, subject to certain processes.

Deputy Public Prosecutors (DPPs) Samihah Rhazali and Mahadi Abdul Jumaat told the court that the release of the funds to Umno, as well as another RM1.41 million to Perano Sdn Bhd, Binsabi Sdn Bhd and Wanita MCA, would result in the funds being spent and therefore pose difficulties in the recovery of the monies in the event that the previous decision by Justice Mohamed Zaini Mazlan is overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal has yet to fix a hearing date for the prosecution's or the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission's (MACC) appeal.

The judge dismissed all four stay applications today as the prosecution's arguments did not show that the parties are insolvent, which can be considered as a "special circumstance" to allow a stay application.

The DPPs tried to argue by saying that the cases are of public interest and that the monies involve public funds.

However, Justice Mohamed Zaini said that he was guided by the law and his decisions were purely based on the law and told the prosecution to show if the parties are indeed insolvent, which they could not.

"The base of the matter is, do they have sufficient assets? From what I heard today, you are not denying the fact that they have sufficient assets to cover the funds. The test here is whether the parties are insolvent," said the judge.

Lawyer Datuk Hariharan Tara Singh, representing Umno, told the court that the party has the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) building listed as an asset worth RM450 million, far exceeding the RM192.96 million amount that was frozen.

He also said that Umno earns about RM1 million in revenue per month from rental income alone, and suggested that the party had other sources of income.

"This stay application denies our client the fruits of litigation as they can't even get their own money back," he said.

Meanwhile, lawyers Mohd Khalil Tajuddin and Thevini Nayagam, present on behalf of Binsabi Sdn Bhd and Perano Sdn Bhd respectively, pointed out that their clients are operating businesses with steady incomes.

Khalil said further holding the monies is "not only unfair to the respondent, but also oppressive".

Meanwhile, Thevini said that Perano had an annual income of RM14 million, and therefore is nowhere near insolvent.

"Perano is also part of the Jakel Group, which has hundreds of millions in annual income. These are not assets, but income. All those arguments of insolvency do not apply to our case," said the lawyer.

Justice Mohamed Zaini then remained adamant that his decisions were strictly based on the law and since there is nothing to show that the respondents are insolvent, the stay applications cannot be allowed.

"When it comes to a stay on a monetary judgement, it must be based on special circumstances. There is no evidence to show this in the form of insolvency. Therefore I dismiss all four stay applications," said the judge.

However, Perano lawyer Habizan Rahman asked whether the court could grant an order for the frozen monies to be released immediately as he claimed that several other parties involved in the forfeiture action had yet to receive their funds despite their respective cases being dismissed already.

The lawyer said that the banks had refused to release the funds, pending instructions from the MACC.

The judge said his order for the release of the funds is immediate but said that he cannot interfere in the MACC's admnistrative process.

The money seized by the MACC is allegedly linked to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) fraudulent fund scandal. 

On Feb 7, Justice Mohamed Zaini dismissed the government’s application to forfeit over RM194 million seized from the parties.

The judge made the verdict on the grounds that the monies could not be convincingly said to be from former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and that there was no evidence to prove that the monies came from unlawful activities.

The forfeiture applications against Umno involved RM192,965,413.61 and RM300,000 against Wanita MCA, while Perano which sells hijab, and Binsabi which supplies tents, had RM337,634.78 and RM827,250 involved respectively, which they allegedly received from the former prime minister.

The prosecution filed the forfeiture application against the four respondents in accordance with the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

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