Arbitration centre’s ex-chief charged with RM1m CBT, claims immunity

Former Asian International Centre for Arbitration’s (AIAC) director Datuk Sundra Rajoo Nadarajah (centre) leaves the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Former Asian International Centre for Arbitration’s (AIAC) director Datuk Sundra Rajoo Nadarajah (centre) leaves the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur March 26, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, March 26 — Former Asian International Centre for Arbitration (AIAC) director Datuk Sundra Rajoo Nadarajah was charged with criminal breach of trust involving over RM1 million of the entity’s funds today.

Sundra Rajoo claimed trial to the three charges that were read out to him here, repeatedly noting that he is not waiving the legal immunity he claimed to possess.

“I do not waive my immunity privileges and I plead not guilty,” he said when the first charge was read out.

“Subject to retaining my immunity privileges, I plead not guilty,” he said when the second charge was read, before entering the same plea for the third charge.

Sundra Rajoo was charged with committing the offences while entrusted to AIAC’s funds as its then-director, in the period spanning from December 2016 to August 2018.

The first charge is over RM89,700 of AIAC funds, with the offence allegedly committed between December 8, 2016 and June 30, 2017, while the second charge is over RM621,172.50 of the same funds with the offence alleged to have occurred between March 1, 2017 and December 29, 2017.

The third charge involving a criminal breach of trust over RM300,495 of AIAC funds allegedly committed between January 24, 2018 and August 17, 2018, which brings the total sum involved to RM1,011,367.50.

All three charges were brought under Section 409 of the Penal Code, which carries the penalty of a jail term of between two and 20 years, whipping, and fine.

Sessions Court judge Azura Alwi granted bail of RM100,000 with one surety, and ordered that Sundra Rajoo surrender his passport to the court on April 2.

The prosecution had asked for bail to be set at RM200,000, but Sundra Rajoo’s lawyer, Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu, sought for bail to be set at a “fair, reasonable amount” of RM50,000.

Baljit pointed out that the issue of immunity remains unresolved, noting that the prosecution had not appealed or asked to review the Magistrate Court’s previous decision during remand proceedings for Sundra Rajoo that immunity exists.

Baljit also said the defence team yesterday received a letter from the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO), an international organisation under which AIAC was formed via a host agreement with Malaysia.

He noted that AALCO said Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry and attorney general (AG) had asked for a waiver of immunity for Sundra Rajoo, but noted that AALCO refused this.

Baljit also noted that his client consistently cooperated with the authorities by always being present when “reasonable notice” was given.

Sundra Rajoo was initially expected to be charged in the Sessions Court yesterday, but it was deferred until today as he did not show up then due to the prosecution’s unsuccessful efforts to contact him.

Baljit explained that there was no indication last Friday that his client would be charged, noting that Sundra Rajoo was down with conjunctivitis and had been in Sungai Petani over the weekend.

“All these happened in the weekend, in my years in criminal practice, never saw such expediency,” Baljit said.

The criminal case will come up for mention again on May 3.

Earlier in a separate case, the High Court decided to disallow Sundra Rajoo from proceeding with his legal bid to assert his purported diplomatic immunity and to prevent charges from being brought against him.

High Court judge Datuk Nordin Hassan dismissed Sundra’s application for leave for judicial review, in which the latter sought to assert that he has immunity for actions done within his official capacity and that such immunity could not be waived.

Nordin noted that the court cannot review the AG’s powers under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution to prosecute.

“The court has no jurisdiction and the application is not amenable to judicial review by virtue of the attorney general’s unfettered discretion under Article 145 of the Federal Constitution, and the court cannot stop the attorney general from prosecuting any person in criminal matters.

“As such, application for judicial review today is dismissed without cost,” Nordin said.

Nordin also disallowed Sundra’s request for a stay of the prosecution that was to be done in Azura’s court today.

Senior federal counsel S. Narkunavathy from the Attorney General’s Chambers had argued that the application for stay of prosecution should be done in the criminal court where the charges are brought.

Sundra Rajoo had filed for judicial review earlier this month against the foreign minister, the AG, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and the government of Malaysia.

He had sought for six court orders, including a declaration that he has immunity as a former High Officer as AIAC director for actions done in his official capacity, a declaration that his immunity as a former High Officer cannot be waived, and a declaration that AIAC officers have no power to waive his immunity.

He also sought for an order to prevent the AG from charging him over any acts or omission during his term as AIAC director, an order to prevent the MACC from arresting or detaining him over the same, and an order to quash any documents that purport to waive his immunity.

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