Are we really independent?

P Gunasegaram

Modified 13 Sep 2016, 12:19 am

QUESTION TIME As we move into a year short of 60 years of independence tomorrow, one thing is certain: the way we deal with corrupt practices in an efficient, honest, straight and incorruptible way is at a new all-time low, despite recent high-profile cases reported prominently in newspapers.

If we can’t have unfettered, free, fair and honest investigations and the means to carry out independent enforcement of the law arising from the investigations, can we claim to be independent?

True there are other factors to assess for what constitutes independence of a country - and there are too many to discuss in a short article like this - but this will constitute one of the critical success factors for independence. If we don’t have it, we are not independent. Period.

The recent crackdown by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, or MACC, on some Kuala Lumpur City Hall officers and a government-linked bank are of course most welcome, although the reluctance to name those detained for investigations puzzles, especially when assets have already been seized.

But the public will wonder about the lack of continuing investigations and detention of people connected with a number of other cases, of which the most famous - or more correctly infamous - is the issue of over US$3.5 billion (some RM14 billion) stolen from our “strategic development company” 1Malaysia Development Bhd or 1MDB.

This theft has been extensively documented in court filings by the US Department of Justice, or DOJ, which seized over US$1 billion of US assets procured by the US$3.5 billion embezzled. Most of the work has already been done for the MACC by the DOJ - it is just a matter of verifying the information.

But no action has been taken against those named by the DOJ, including what appears to be the mastermind, Jho Low, into whose accounts (either his accounts or those operated by his proxies) all the over US$3.5 billion stolen was moved into initially.

Such movement of funds from 1MDB into accounts which were not related to the transactions concerned could not have been done without collusion from 1MDB officials. The DOJ outlines their roles without naming them but it is easy to infer who they are. They include a former CEO of 1MDB, a former executive director and a former legal counsel.

Leaving aside the role of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for the moment, surely nothing can prevent the MACC from continuing to investigate the losses at 1MDB, call in those involved for questioning, detain them if necessary and if they can’t be found, to enlist the help of Interpol to track them down and bring them back to Malaysia as wanted fugitives from the law.

Press reports, quoting the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB have also said that as much as US$7 billion (RM28 billion) at 1MDB cannot be accounted for. The requisite police reports have been made, so why is 1MDB not investigating?

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