The Malaysian Bar said it condemns the actions of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and the Inland Revenue Board, in their unmeritorious and unlawful conduct of attempting to misuse their powers by raiding law firms.
The Bar said it received reports from two law firms where attempts to raid their offices were made by MACC, and in the case of one of the law firms in relation to a former Prime Minister’s son case where IRB had also participated in the attempted raid on 6 October 2023.
Having sighted the notices issued by MACC and IRB, the Malaysian Bar said it is outraged that both MACC and IRB had separately made (amongst others) broad, sweeping, and generic demands to access, search, and seize privileged documents and information relating to the clients of the relevant law firms.
Both the law firms in question refused to grant access to such privileged materials and were in turn, threatened with criminal action and sanctions for purportedly failing to comply with the unlawful demands made.
In this regard, the Malaysian Bar firmly takes the position that neither section 31(1) of the MACC Act nor section 80 of the ITA grants MACC and IRB the powers to embark on fishing expeditions to gain access to privileged materials and information. No provisions in the MACC Act nor the ITA override section 126 of the Evidence Act 1950 or Privilege at common law. Privilege is also expressly preserved by operation of section 46(2) of the MACC Act, which categorically excludes any privileged information from being demanded by MACC.
Accordingly, it is trite that Privilege is absolute and it remains so until and unless expressly waived by the privilege holder (the client). Acting without a court order and making sweeping demands for privileged information without specifics of illegality, are an affront to Parliament’s will under the Evidence Act 1950.
MACC and IRB cannot wantonly ignore the law and judgments of our Superior and Apex Courts, by resorting to intimidating tactics that are tantamount to abuse of power, with the hope of unlawfully piercing Privilege to obtain confidential information held by lawyers. To do so, would be to their peril and would likely open themselves to face legal consequences.
The Malaysian Bar said it continues to be resolute and unwavering in its commitment to upholding Privilege and reminds all Members of the Malaysian Bar to remain vigilant and to zealously defend the sanctity of Privilege without fear.