Umno lawyer Hafarizam conditionally discharged in RM15m money-laundering case, prosecutors say will file charges anew

Lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 3, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Lawyer Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court August 3, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Umno legal adviser Datuk Mohd Hafarizam Harun was today conditionally discharged in the High Court over his two money-laundering charges for allegedly depositing RM15 million in illegal funds via three cheques from Datuk Seri Najib Razak into his law firm's client account.

However, Hafarizam is set to be charged again today at the Sessions Court.

Today was scheduled to be the first day of Hafarizam’s trial, but the prosecution this morning informed the High Court of its intention to ask for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNAA) in this case in order to file fresh charges against him.

Deputy public prosecutor Datuk Ishak Mohd Yusoff this morning told the court: “The case is fixed for hearing for whole of three weeks and the prosecution asks for all the charges to be discharged not amounting to acquittal and soon after that we will be charging the accused in the lower court.”

Ishak confirmed to the High Court that the fresh charges against Hafarizam in the Sessions Court will amount to new charges, explaining that the prosecution intends to split up the two transactions in the current first charge against Hafarizam for money-laundering into two new charges.

This is due to the different dates of the two transactions in April 2014 and November 2014, as the version of the money-laundering laws in effect on those two dates are different.

“For the first charge, there were two transactions in April 2014 and November 2014. Amlatfa was amended to Amlatfpuaa on September 1, 2014. In the charge sheets was stated as punishable under Amlatfa We have to split up the transactions into two charges and it amounts to new charges,” Ishak explained, referring to the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act (Amlatfa) and its newer version, Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (Amlatfpuaa).

The penalties for money-laundering offences under the two versions of the local anti-money laundering laws are different, with the offence under the Amlatfa punishable by a maximum fine of RM5 million or a maximum jail term of five years or both.

The penalties under the Amlatfpuaa for money-laundering offences are more severe, namely at a maximum 15-year jail term, and a fine of RM5 million or not less than five times the sum of the proceeds of unlawful activity, whichever is higher.

Hafarizam’s lawyer, Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican, confirmed that the defence has filed an application to have High Court judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali recused or removed from hearing this case.

Hasnal Rezua noted that the application to recuse Mohd Nazlan has become academic in light of the prosecution’s DNAA request, and said his client would not be pursuing the recusal application.

“But I would withdraw the application rather than having it struck out, with liberty to file afresh since the matter has not been disposed on merits,” Hasnal Rezua said, adding that Hafarizam’s lawyers would retain the liberty to file the recusal application again if his new case is transferred to the High Court and is heard before Mohd Nazlan again.

After hearing both sides, Mohd Nazlan then gave a DNAA order for Hafarizam’s case.

“After having heard the oral application by Datuk Ishak for the prosecution to withdraw the charges against the accused in this case, this court orders the accused to be DNAA in respect of the two charges currently before this court. This is to enable prosecution to file afresh new charges against the accused in sessions court as mentioned by the DPP," the judge said.

“The application for my recusal is therefore recorded as being withdrawn by the defence,” the judge added.

On February 21, 2019, Hafarizam pleaded not guilty when charged at the Sessions Court with the two charges of money-laundering under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

Under the first charge, Hafarizam was accused of engaging directly in two transactions that involved proceeds from illegal activity, by causing RM11.5 million through two AmIslamic Bank Berhad cheques belonging to Najib to be deposited into his law firm Hafarizam Wan & Aisha Mubarak’s client account in CIMB Bank Berhad between April 16 and November 4, 2014.

Under the second charge, Hafarizam was similarly accused of having on February 12, 2015 caused proceeds of unlawful activity amounting to RM3.5 million to be deposited into the law firm’s same client account via an AmIslamic Bank Berhad cheque belonging to Najib. 

The two charges are punishable under Section 4(1) of the same Act with the penalty of a maximum 15-year jail term, and a fine of RM5 million or not less than five times the sum of the proceeds of unlawful activity, whichever is higher.

The High Court’s DNAA order today is over these two money-laundering charges against Hafarizam.

A client account is a bank account usually used by law firms to hold clients’ money on trust and kept separate from the law firm’s own funds.

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