Malaysiakini NEWS

Openness, transparency, accountability vital to eradicate graft

Steven Thiru  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT The Malaysian Bar is very perturbed by recent reports that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) special operations division is being downsized, six of its senior officers are being transferred, and its director Bahri Mohamad Zin has taken optional retirement, reportedly due to his unhappiness over the alleged inaction in respect of investigations into SRC International Sdn Bhd, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.

The division reportedly handled high-profile cases relating to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).

These developments are disquieting because they reinforce the public perception that although one-and-a-half years have passed since it was revealed that funds of about US$700 million (approximately RM2.7 billion) were transferred between private banks, offshore companies and funds linked to 1MDB, and then deposited into the personal accounts of the prime minister in AmIslamic Bank Berhad, the authorities are reluctant or unwilling to get to the bottom of the serious allegations of financial impropriety concerning 1MDB, and bring action against those guilty of any wrongdoing.

This is in stark contrast to the developments in at least eleven countries - Australia, British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and Venezuela - where there have been investigations, measures imposed on financial institutions, criminal prosecutions and convictions, and proceedings for forfeiture of assets.

These actions raise serious questions regarding the investigations that are apparently being conducted in our own jurisdiction, and expose the lack of transparency regarding the findings. It is indeed unsettling that no one has yet been prosecuted in Malaysia for any of the allegations.

The auditor-general and the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament were tasked with enquiring into the allegations of serious financial impropriety concerning 1MDB. It is inexplicable that the Auditor General’s report has been classified as an ‘official secret’ under the Official Secrets Act 1972 and is thereby prohibited from public disclosure, particularly in light of repeated assurances by the prime minister that the report would be made public.

This purported classification of the auditor-general’s report is being challenged in court.

The Public Accounts Committee’s report, which was made public, unequivocally urges law enforcement agencies to carry out further investigations on Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi - the then-chief executive officer of 1MDB - and others from the 1MDB management who are implicated.

To this end, the police have completed the first phase of investigations, according to news reports. The inspector-general of police had said that the investigations would involve interviewing persons overseas and would require the mutual assistance of law enforcement agencies in those foreign countries. There has been little or no subsequent information on the purportedly ongoing police investigations.

It has also been reported that our attorney-general has refused to accede to a request from the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland for mutual assistance - notwithstanding earlier assurances by both the prime minister and the attorney-general that Malaysia would cooperate with investigations by both the United States and Swiss authorities.

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