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1MDB probe: US civil action does not mean wrongdoing is any less serious

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They US Department of Justice may have its own reasons for pursuing civil rather than criminal action, observes Angry Malaysian.

There is a new round of opinion being bandied about: that if you are hauled up over ill-gotten gains in a civil court process, establishing your guilt or otherwise would not be the main objective as it would be in a criminal process. This was nicely covered in this commentary.

One of the differences between civil and criminal court action is that a civil suit does not involve penal punishments such as jail and caning.

If someone has stolen money from me and the police refuse to act, my understanding is that I may be able to sue the culprit via a civil process and recover my money with compensation. I just can’t commit that person to a jail as I would have no standing in asking the court to do that. Only the State (the government) can do that.

So the fact that the United States Department of Justice has chosen a civil process instead of a criminal process does not mean that the crime or misdeed is any lighter. They may have their own reasons for pursuing a civil process. Maybe they don’t want the mess of putting a foreign citizen into a US jail; they tend to capture foreigners abroad mostly for terrorism-related offences.

If one were to follow the Department of Justice’s way of doing this – on many occasions, they pursue civil penalties, such as in recent cases of bank misbehaviour.

Isn’t civil action better as it allows all to see and appreciate the evidence outlined? Why should someone be arrested and put in jail pending trial only to be found innocent?

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Why arrest anyone if you can question them and if there is no flight risk? Whether it is civil or criminal, all parties can still be present to put forward their case. So I am unsure what difference it would make to the culprit’s ‘guilt’.

So if I was to steal money and not be charged in a criminal process but have to go through a civil process and have to give the money back, I would not be found ‘guilty’ in the usual sense. Of course, whether it is criminal or civil, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

But nowadays, whether you are guilty or not does not entirely rest with a court decision. Many tend to make up their minds based on who they support; so it gets a bit complicated trying to explain guilt. To make matters worse, in some parts of the world, blind allegiance is the order of the day.

Angry Malaysian is the pseudonym of an Aliran reader who is always angry because the bright future of Malaysia has been eroded by incompetence, nepotism, apathy, laziness, racism, double standards and arrogance.

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