Normal for Swiss to inform public about criminal cases, say lawyers

It is normal practice for Switzerland’s prosecuting authority to announce the progress of criminal investigations, especially for high-profile cases, a lawyer says.

Datuk N. Sivananthan, who is counsel at the International Criminal Court, said Switzerland practised greater transparency on such matters and took steps to keep the public informed.

“I see nothing wrong about it as they are very open about it,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Sivananthan was responding to Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s statement that the Swiss attorney-general (A-G) should not have made public his request for Malaysia’s help with its investigations into 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Zahid’s remarks came after Swiss A-G Michael Laubner’s press statement on January 30 that some US$4 billion (RM16.8 billion) may have been misappropriated from Malaysian companies. The discovery was made in the course of investigating two former 1MDB officials and others on suspicion of bribery involving foreign public officials.

Zahid, who is also home minister, said such details should have been kept private between the two governments.

“I had hoped that information like that would be conveyed through official government channels because it is on a G-to-G (government-to-government) basis.

But Sivananthan said the Swiss A-G had not made any incriminating remark by announcing his findings and by requesting assistance from Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Sivananthan said Malaysia was obliged to assist the Swiss authorities if both nations have a treaty on mutual legal assistance.

“We are bound to provide the assistance required if both countries have signed an agreement.”

If there was no formal agreement, then Malaysia has the discretion to extend assistance on a goodwill basis.

“You will have to check with the Attorney-General’s Chambers what is the current position,” he added.

However, any reluctance on Malaysia’s part could create the perception that there was something to hide in the eyes of the international community, he said.

“The Swiss authorities may not cooperate with Malaysia in future should our investigators need to collect evidence in that county.”

Normal for Swiss to inform public about criminal cases, say lawyers
1 February 2016 – TMI


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