By Lalitha Kunaratnam

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Malaysian prosecutors on Wednesday dropped 29 corruption charges against a former Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) board of directors’ member, the first high-profile graft case to be dismissed since the new government took over in August.

Former Felda director, Noor Ehsanuddin Mohd Harun Narrashi was acquitted and discharged of 29 bribery charges after the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) withdrew all their charges against him.

His counsel, Hasnal Rezua Merican reportedly told Bernama that the decision to withdraw the charges came after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigated the defence’s statement under Section 62 of the MACC Act and was satisfied that all transactions involved were advances that had been fully repaid.

This raises the question of whether the investigation by the MACC was ineffective, incomplete and defective from the start.

Investigations of corruption cases are often very complex, since they usually involve a multitude of relevant actors and targets, movement of assets and financial vehicles. A high-quality investigation would have included, amongst others:

● the collection and analysis of documents and other material;
● the review of assets and premises of the organisation/individual;
● interviews of witnesses;
● examination of all evidence, both inculpatory and exculpatory;
● validation of evidence, including corroborative testimonial, and forensic and documentary evidence;

Hence, MACC cannot absolve itself of its responsibility. Conviction of a criminal is the ultimate test of a justice system.

MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki’s assurances of neither political interference nor interference from certain parties in high-profile corruption cases ring hollow and cannot help to preserve its good name and integrity if after years of investigations and trials, before the case is dismissed.

The outcome of a criminal case impacts the entire society. When an accused goes scot free, it shakes the faith of people in the entire system and opens the floodgates for other perpetrators.

*Lalitha Kunaratnam is an independent investigative journalist and anti-corruption activist*