The restrictions on those providing professional services are getting tighter all the time. And now they've been kicked up another level.
Accountants and lawyers in Malaysia may be looking up at the gallows soon if they are found guilty of providing professional services to terrorists or terrorist groups.
Earlier this month, the parliament in Malaysia began deliberations over whether to amend the country's penal code to incorporate death by hanging for those who provide terrorists with professional services or facilities. The death sentence for those providing professional services to the terrorists would be enforced if acts performed by the terrorists result in death. Should the terrorist's activities not result in death, the providers of professional services will still face a prison sentence of from seven to 30 years.
Representatives from both the Malaysian Institute of Accountants and the Bar Council have voiced objection to the proposed amendments, claiming the wording of the legislation is ambiguous and that the rules would place an onerous responsibility on lawyers and accountants.
The proposed legislation addresses situations wherein there are "reasonable grounds to believe" the professional services or facilities were used in the commission of a terrorist act without specifically defining "terrorist act," or "facilities," or even "reasonable grounds."
The professional organizations have asked how one of their members might be able to ascertain that a client is linked to a terrorist group. In an interview with the Malaysia newspaper, The Star, Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail defended the discretionary language in the amendment, saying terrorism is "very hard to pinpoint." He said that accountants and lawyers can determine by examining the transactions and the movement of money whether or not money-laundering is occurring.
The attorney-general added, "If they suspect their client, they will have to report the person or organization to the police."