Turn left after the stoplight

There is the long arm of the law, and then there are the lengths to which a judge in Malaysia was willing to go in the case of two defendants charged with improper business practices. Khalid Arshad couldn't attend court because he was home in bed, incapacitated by illness, his attorney told jurist Nurmala Salim. But, unwilling to take him at his word, she decided to see for herself. So Her Honor ordered up transportation, took the prosecutor and other officers of the court with her, and rode to Arshad's residence in another town. Arshad and his wife, Enon Rais, are accused of using "banca" in the name of their trading company in the mid-1990s and of handing out business cards to that effect without the written permission of the Finance Ministry. Pretty small potatoes as criminal offenses go, you say? Maybe, but banca is Italian for "bank," which, the prosecution argued, could be taken to mean that the couple were prepared to make loans and offer checking accounts when they weren't. Nor is the penalty for conviction light; Arshad and his missis could be jailed for five years and fined $1.4 million on each count if Judge Salim determines that they broke the law. So was she satisfied that the lawyer had told the truth about his client? Apparently so. But, he said, in 25 years of practicing law this was the first time he'd seen a judge make a house call. The jurist is expected to issue her ruling Monday, a procedure that she'd prefer to happen in the defendants' presence. So she and her entourage may be back on the road. But at least they'll know the way now.

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