Crime & Courts

Aman Palestin cannot challenge to unfreeze bank accounts via judicial review - AGC 

KUALA LUMPUR: The order to freeze Aman Palestin's bank accounts cannot be challenged by a judicial review as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has discretionary powers in carrying out a criminal investigation, the High Court was told today.

Senior federal counsel Ahmad Hanir Hambaly said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) objected to Aman Palestin's application to obtain leave for judicial review on the grounds that the issuance of the impugned notices is not amenable to judicial review.

"The power to issue freezing orders is one of the mechanisms for investigation provided in law. Law enforcement agencies are vested with the power to issue an order to freeze a person's property upon the fulfilment of some conditions. The said requirements are enumerated in Section 44(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLA),

"The issuance of a freezing order 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 commits or is about to commit a terrorism financing offence, or that the property is the proceeds from an unlawful activity," he said.

Ahmad Hanir said it has been upheld by the courts time and again that the exercises of function or power concerning criminal investigation processes are not amenable to judicial review. 

Meanwhile, lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali representing Aman Palestin, described the reluctance of the MACC to revoke or amend the freezing order as unreasonable and not in accordance with Section 44(1) of AMLA.

"As a result of the account freeze, all relief funds collected for victims of Israeli atrocities in Gaza have now come to a halt and can no longer be carried out. This becomes even more urgent as the Winter Aid Programme, estimated at RM10 million, cannot be channelled to the victims in Gaza," said the lawyer.

Therefore, he said that permission should be granted to the applicant to proceed with the judicial review proceedings as the application has merit.

High Court Judge Datuk Amarjeet Singh then fixed March 21 for the decision by email.

Aman Palestin Berhad filed an application on Jan 31, seeking to set aside the MACC's decision to freeze 11 of their bank accounts.

The freezing order was made under Section 44(1) of the AMLA on Nov 24, 2023.

The NGO also sought a mandamus order for the MACC to vary the freeze order for a sum of RM11,026,215.60 to be unfrozen immediately for daily expenses, staff salary, administration and operation costs for the next three months.

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

Besides MACC, six other respondents were named in the suit namely 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, two MACC officers Mohd Afiq Mohammed Hassan and Muhammad Zuhdi Mohd Yusoff, and the government.

On Feb 15, Aman Palestin Berhad (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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