MACC marks 55th anniversary with high-profile case achievements

Azam Baki said he doesn’t believe the MACC chief commissioner should be given prosecution powers, adding that it should be at the sole discretion of the attorney general. (Bernama picture)

PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year with the motto “Amanah, Tegas dan Adil” (Trustworthy, Firm and Fair) and highlighting many success stories in uncovering white-collar crime and high-profile cases.

MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki said the issue also aligns with the agency’s approach of handling high-profile cases involving those in positions of power or high-ranking individuals.

Azam said that of the 292 corruption cases tried in 2021, including high-profile ones, 91.1% or 266 cases ended in conviction.

“This is an achievement because it surpasses the 90% conviction rate for corruption set out in the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) 2019-2023. In terms of asset recovery, the total amount of assets forfeited and returned to the government last year was RM5.1 billion, of which 99.57% came from the 1MDB case.

“The investigations of the cases were very challenging due to the many limitations we faced in various aspects.

“But the success – from the investigation to the prosecution phase – proves that the MACC’s power and ability in handling high-profile and complex cases is recognized not only in this country but also internationally,” he said in connection with the 55th MACC anniversary today.

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Azam said that alongside the cases of 1MDB and SRC International, MACC’s major achievements included the Op Water corruption scandal, which saw the largest seizure of cash, luxury vehicles and jewelry worth millions of ringgit.

According to Azam, cooperation between the MACC’s Malaysia Anti-Corruption Academy (MACA) and Nottingham Trent University, UK, to develop trained staff has also borne fruit.

He said that at the first convocation ceremony on September 8, a total of 266 MACA graduates received their scrolls and certificates of study from Prof. Cillian Ryan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) of Nottingham Trent University.

“MACC top management worked with Nottingham Trent University in 2017 after receiving federal government approval to develop a professional standard undergraduate course module for MACC officers to include an investigation module, an intelligence module, a law enforcement and legal module, a professional practice module and a leadership module.

“In terms of enforcement, existing technology needs to be improved. Employees need to acquire more knowledge about this. We cannot be left behind by criminals in terms of technology, development or modus operandi,” he added.

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Azam said there will be technological changes in the next five years, which will make corruption cases more sophisticated.

“Even now, bribes are paid with cryptocurrency. It’s hard to spot, I have to admit. MACC and Bank Negara Malaysia are still looking for ways to uncover bribery payments via the virtual world.

“Therefore, enforcement action needs to move with changing times and technology,” he said.

Intelligence-Based Investigations

Azam also said MACC’s predecessor, the anti-corruption agency, waited for information and complaints before opening an investigation.

“But after 2000, we started using intelligence and undercover methods to uncover corruption. It has been expanded to include the use of Intelligence-Based Investigations (IBI).

“This method is proactive and can be used for high-profile cases where a thorough analysis of subjects is conducted before investigations begin. With a thorough analysis, the identification of high-profile corrupt individuals can be confirmed,” he added.

Azam said the IBI method helped MACC, embezzlement of RM42 million of SRC International funds and infrastructure project funds totaling RM3.3 billion under Op Water, and electricity theft cases involving bitcoin syndicates uncover that caused losses of up to 2 RM. 3 billion between 2018 and 2021 by Op Power.

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He added that every operation has a significant impact, not only on the community but also on the authorities involved, where prevention goes hand-in-hand with enforcement.

“In order to ensure that the issues at hand can be comprehensively addressed, following the enforcement of investigations and arrests, the MACC also takes proactive measures by providing advisory services and recommendations to the authorities involved to eliminate opportunities for the occurrence of corruption and improve the governance,” he said.

According to Azam, between January 2020 and August this year, a total of 2,553 people were arrested, while a total of 1,313 corruption-related charges were filed.

“These numbers indirectly give the impression that MACC is very active in conducting anti-corruption operations in this country,” he said.

Meanwhile, on a proposal to give the MACC chief commissioner prosecution powers, Azam said it wasn’t necessary.

“Our duty is to investigate and submit the investigation documents to the Attorney General’s Office (AGC). The AGC will decide whether to take the case to court,” he added.