Stern measures including freezing, confiscating and forfeiting properties acquired by corrupt practices and abuse of power will be enforced more aggressively to combat corruption in the country.
Dzulkifli Ahmad, the new head of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, said the actions would be carried out by using its existing enforcement power and capabilities.
Among these were the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Act, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.
“In my view, the main factor driving growing corruption is greed among those vested with power and position regardless of how high or low the posts they hold.
“The motivation for them to get involved in corruption is property and money, so MACC will ensure whatever acquisitions made from income of corrupt and abuse of power means will be frozen and seized by and forfeited to the government, and not just by bringing them, to face justice in court,” he said.
Dzulkifli said to ensure the action was more effective, the freezing of properties could be carried out even if the person was just a suspect and the case was still under investigation.
“While the case was under investigation, the properties owned by the individual under investigation could be frozen based on the various acts. This is because we do not want them to dispose (of the properties), so it would be difficult for us to detect them; the later that we freeze the property, the further it will go and more would be involved,” he said.
The MACC Act allows the property of a suspect to be frozen for up to 90 days with an extension of nine months more if there were reasonable grounds.
Under the anti-money-laundering act, properties could be frozen up to 18 months.
“If we find it is a strong criminal case, we will press charges in court and at the same time the properties would become the subject matter to the charge and if the court decides to forfeit the right, then the properties of the accused would be forfeited,” he said.
Dzulkifli said the move to freeze properties was not limited to properties owned by the corrupt suspect but also to properties transferred to the accused’s family members, if it was believed it was acquired with incomes from corruption and abuse of power.
At the same time, he said those who allowed their names to be used by the suspect of corruption to hide assets acquired through corruption and abuse of power practices would also not be spared of the action.
This was because he said the jail sentence was insufficient if the accused had acquired thousands or even millions of ringgit, and could still own the properties after serving their jail sentence.
“Upon coming out of prison, the former prisoner could then lead the life of a lord with his ill-gotten wealth,” he said.
Dzulkifli said it was hoped the move to forfeit the rights of properties would be a deterrent to anyone especially civil servants from engaging in corruption and abuse of power based on the high risk involved.
Dzulkifli said apart from the serious action against bribe recipients, actions would also be taken against the bribe givers especially the syndicated givers.
“Syndicated givers usually offer bribes so that no enforcement action is taken. So in this situation, we shall take action not only against the recipient but also the giver through other acts including the Customs Act or the Inland Revenue Board Act,” he said.
Dzulkifli said MACC would be more proactive and not wait for a report to be lodged against the corrupt offender to enforce its preventive measures.
“Actually, we already have information on the various civil servants or those involved with government agencies who lived beyond their means and it is just a matter of time for action,” he said.
In fact he said, MACC also kept profiles of individuals convicted of corruption and had served their jail sentence as they were now being monitored by them.