Teoh Beng Hock’s death has raised the question as to whether the Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) uses force to extract information from witnesses.A former Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) senior officer has claimed that the corruption watchdog used to be a “civil and gentleman’s organisation” that has never been accused of abusing or assaulting witnesses or suspects.”We don’t work like the police. We don’t resort to using force to extract a confession. But I don’t know (what it is like) now,” said Mohamad Ramli Manan in an email interview with Malaysiakini on issues raised by Teoh’s death.
“If you are a good investigator, you don’t need a confession at all. You prove your case from other evidence.”
The ACA was upgraded to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in January.
Ramli had stunned the nation in early 2007 when he alleged that then ACA director-general Zulkipli Mat Noor was involved in corruption and a sex offence.
Ramli had served as ACA deputy chief in three states – Kedah, Perak, Negeri Sembilan – before being appointed to head the agency in Kelantan, Malacca, Johor and Sabah.
Zulkipli was cleared by Attorney-General Chambers but his contract was not extended when it expired in March 2007.
Ramli said the ACA, created in 1967, had never resorted to handcuffing suspects or arrested persons. Unlike the police who deal with hardcore criminals, the anti-graft agency deals with white collar crimes where there is minimal risk of suspects escaping.
However, there was a departure from this practice early this year when two Perak Pakatan Rakyat state executive councillors were arrested.
“We were shocked to see that the exco members who had voluntarily surrendered to the MACC and other suspects were handcuffed for their remand proceedings.
“I would venture to say that the Perak exco suspects were handcuffed just to embarrass them. That speaks of the mentality of MACC officers compared to ACA officers.”
Ramli, who retired in 2006, agreed that the ACA had always practised selective investigation.
“They are so afraid to investigate Umno ministers, excos and menteris besar unless they get the green light from the top. Officers who try to do so might find themselves facing trouble.
“MACC would not dare to do what they have done in Selangor and Perak in any of the BN states. They would not dare to handcuff an Umno exco member. That is a fact which nobody can deny.”
‘Cloak and dagger operation’
Although it has yet to be proven that the MACC used force when interrogating Teoh, Ramli noticed the investigation methods carried out on Selangor Pakatan assemblypersons were not in accordance with investigation procedures.
He revealed that the ACA investigations were divided into two stages and that this procedure is still in effect at the MACC.
An inquiry paper is opened upon receipt of any information. The investigations are conducted in a “cloak and dagger” manner at this stage.
“Nobody knows (this is in progress); not even the targeted suspects know that we are investigating the case since the purpose is to determine the truth or falsity of the information,” said Ramli.
Only when the agency is convinced that the information is true, will a full scale investigation begin to secure all evidence to prove the alleged crime, he explained.
“In a full scale investigation, we are pretty sure that a corrupt offence had been committed. There is no such thing as a ‘fishing expedition’.
“We know how many witnesses have to be called up and what evidence is available and obtainable from them; where and what documentary evidence we have to take and we also know where these documents are being kept.”
Teoh’s case handled against norm
According to Ramli, the Director of Operation may issue an ‘Operation Order’ detailing, mapping out and strategising the investigation if the case involves high-profile figures.
While he was heading the Sabah ACA, Ramli was Director of Operations in a case allegedly involving former Land and Cooperative Development Minister Kasitah Gaddam.
Ramli said such operations start in the morning and end about 7pm to 8pm. At this time, the officers will decide which suspects are to be further detained or whether the questioning should end.
“By 9pm the Director of Operations will call for a meeting to evaluate all the evidence that we have obtained and to give instructions for the next day’s operations. This enables officers to get rest and prepare for the next day.”
In Teoh’s case, Ramli surmised from MACC director of investigation Mohd Shukri Abdul’s statements that the Pakatan representatives were being investigated based on general information – or the first stage that requires discreet inquiry.
“What they did is against established practice and procedures of investigation methodology [...] I don’t know the actual facts of the case,” Ramli added.
“But if Shukri says they investigated based on general information received from anonymous sources or their informers, then an investigation through discreet inquiry is the proper investigative method.”