It is wrong for a minister and two senior officers of the Federal Territory Islamic Council (MAIWP) to use tithe funds as advance payment for their legal fees although the money was returned eight months later from a federal grant.
Former senior police office, Mat Zain Ibrahim in a hard hitting letter today to the Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, remarked that it was not only a criminal offence but also a “big sin” in Islam to use it.
Mat Zain, the former Kuala Lumpur CID chief, said under Section 403 of the Penal Code for the dishonest misappropriation of property, he said anyone using the funds for his own can be punished with imprisonment of between six months and five years’ jail, and is also liable to be caned.
“Even using the money for one day is considered misappropriation of property and punishable under this section. In the case of the minister Jamil Khir Baharom, MAIWP director Che Mat Che Ali and chief prosecuting officer Shamsudin Hussain, had used the money in April 2010 and paying back in December 2010.”
Mat Zain cited section 409A of the Penal Code, which states there is no defence for offences under sections 403 to 409, to show that the property was openly appropriated and duly recorded.
‘No one can indemnify them’
He pointed out that the evidence obtained can be used against them for misappropriation of funds.
“In other words, although the open usage of tithe money is recorded in MAIWP’s accounts, it is still an offence and it cannot be used for their defence. The records provide concrete evidence of criminal offence and the audit report is prima facie evidence in this case.
“Paying back every sen is not a good reason to clean oneself of the crime or a mitigation to escape punishment,” he said.
On Thursday, it was reported that the audit department report confirmed that RM63,650 was withdrawn from MAIWP to settle in advance legal costs for Jamil Khir, and the other. The money was paid eight months later.
The report claimed that tithe money was used to bear the legal costs of the council following Anwar Ibrahim’s qazaf application, as they are its officers and it is permitted.
Citing Section 409B of the same code, a person found in violation of Section 403 and 404, shall be deemed to have acted dishonestly until the three are proven otherwise.
“With this, I would argue without hesitation that Jamil Khir, Che Mat and Shamsudin had committed offences under Section 403 and can be charged and punished under the same section.
“If they are not charged it is a different matter. No party may indemnify their criminal liability for their alleged acts,” he added.
‘New found powers’
On an Islamic perspective, Mat Zain said they should have been well versed that using tithe funds unless permitted under the religion is considered haram (forbidden) and a big sin.
Referring to a working paper on the distribution of tithe funds by Professor Hailani Muji Tahir on June 2009, two months before Jamil Khir took his oath as a minister in charge of religious affairs, Mat Zain said that it was a blessing and that the working paper served as a reminder.
“There is a possibility that Jamil Khir may have been buoyed with his new found powers of appointment which he may interpret had absolved him of a major sin.
“Whatever the reasons, misappropriation of tithe money is an offence under the Penal Code. In the Quran, it states abusing tithe funds is forbidden and a big sin like others including consuming alcohol beverages, committing adultery, rape, sodomy or falsifying oath,” he added.
He said Jamil Khir was willing to use tithe money so as to protect something related to a case involving complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
“Why did they use the tithe which is supposed to be given to the poor and the orphans. Is this what you mean as upholding Islam?” he asked.