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MAS scandal: The gov't must let the truth be told

I am referring to the report made by MAS against Tajudin Ramli to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) almost three years ago. This report has been in the public domain since Aug 23, 2010, when it was first published by Malaysia Today . It's still there until today.

On May 20, 2009, Shahari Sulaiman, then the managing director of MASKargo, on the instructions of MAS management, lodged a report with the MACC. He alleged that when Tajudin Ramli took over MAS in 1994, the national airline company had RM600 million cash in reserves but when he left, the company had accumulated losses to the tune of RM8 billion. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad quoted the losses at RM9.4 billion as at 2000.

MAS also gave details of Tajudin's various fraudulent dealings and also raised allegations of collusion between the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers and in fact naming the parties alleged to be involved in the same report.

However, the report falls short of alleging the inaction of the former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is now MAS adviser, although it gave details of those senior MAS management who were present during the briefing by the former police director of the Commercial Crime Investigation Department (CCID), on March 26, 2007 at the Prime Minister's Office. One of them is Idris Jala who is now a cabinet member.

To my mind, the report is very comprehensive, concisely explained and overall, a watertight report. The drafts must have gone through very thorough vetting sessions by MAS senior management team, before the complainant was instructed to file the report. One need not be a qualified lawyer or an accountant to analyse the report.

After having sighted the report, the public can judge for themselves, whether the government of the day have been fair, transparent and honest to the rakyat or otherwise, at least in the manner they handled the MAS issue.

After making MAS prepare such a report and throwing and exposing all the dirts about Tajudin Ramli and his associates, and blaming everyone else except themselves, not forgetting the people who got into trouble for doing some honest jobs for them, Danaharta and the government-linked corporations (GLCs) involved happily settled the matter out-of-court with Tajudin Ramli, unconcerned of public outrage.

It's difficult to fathom the rationale behind the government's move in ‘advising' the GLCs to settle the suit with Tajudin, whereas the evidence of wrongdoing against the latter was overwhelming. Had the cabinet not have any intention of taking any actions against Tajudin or whoever else, then MAS should not have lodged such report in the first place.

In fact, on Dec 7, 2009 Danaharta and two of its subsidiaries had won a RM589.14 million award against Tajudin. Prior to the award, Tajudin's counterclaims against Danaharta and several others was struck off.

On top of that, in October last year, Minister in the PM's Department Nazri Aziz himself announced that based on investigations, Tajudin was found to have breached Section 131 of the Companies Act 1965,which involves disclosure of interest. This offence carries a penalty of seven years imprisonment or a fine of RM150,000 or both.

With that kind of advantage over Tajudin Ramli, how could the government claim they might lose to him?

On page seven, which is the last page of MAS's report, one will not miss the name Shahidan Shafie being mentioned several times, and the parts he played in the scandal.

The mention of the name Shahidan Shafie should remind all, of the widely reported 2010 Haj trip, performed by Abdul Gani Patail, the attorney-general, his wife and son (who is reported to be with the AG's Chambers) together with one Shahidan Shafie, a proxy of Tajudin Ramli. This Shahidan Shafie refers to the one and the same person alleged in the MAS report.

The public can also now decide whether it was proper for the AG and his family to be found in the company of Shahidan Shafie even though in holy Mecca, whilst the latter was still under MACC's on-going probe for his part in the MAS scandal.

An out-of-court settlement agreement by itself is not an offence. In fact such settlements are encouraged in civil disputes. However if such agreement includes an understanding to conceal an illegal act or a mutual understanding to suppress evidence of any criminal wrongdoing of any person, which is a criminal act on it's own, then such agreement is deemed a criminal conspiracy. (Section 120A Penal Code).

Based on the facts and circumstances that are clearer now, I believe the citizens can see for themselves and decide, whether the settlement agreement reached between Danaharta & several GLCs vs Tajudin Ramli last week, was a legitimate commercial decision or a clear-cut criminal conspiracy of the highest order, to screen certain people from legal punishment and to suppress evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

For those who think that it was a clear-cut criminal conspiracy, no one can stop them from lodging a police report if they wish to, or they may go through their respective MPs from both sides of the political divide, so that the matter could be raised during the next Parliament sitting, due in about three weeks time.

Should nothing be done, then the rakyat can expect another whitewashing exercise on May 10, when MAS meets face-to-face with Tajudin Ramli.

A similar approach is likely to be adopted by the government in dealing with the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) fiasco, judging from the pre-emptive moves and statements that are already in place.

Under the circumstances surrounding the settlement agreement, as an ordinary citizen, I for one verily believe they warrant a public inquiry.

MAT ZAIN IBRAHIM is former Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief.

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