Friday, June 26, 2015

The MARA Controversy - Malaysian Money and Officials, But Our Investigation Stalls for an Australian Request

Why are the Malaysian Police so tardy when investigating Government-Linked Companies (GLCs)?

On 23 June 2015, The Age, an Australian newspaper reported that a “top” Mara officer, senior official and former politician have allegedly spent millions of government funds to buy an apartment block in Melbourne in a property scam.

In the exclusive report, the Australian paper alleges that “a group of super-rich Malaysian officials” overpaid by A$4.75 million (RM13.8 million) for an apartment block in the city in 2013. The trio had allegedly “overbid” for the building, called Dudley International House, from A$17.8 million to A$22.5 million (RM65.3 million), with the difference pocketed as bribes back home.

Within 2 days of the report, the Australian Federal Police officers have launched raids in Melbourne as part of an international bribery and money-laundering investigation involving high-ranking Malaysian officials, businessmen and the purchase of Melbourne property.

The Federal agents seized computers and files on Thursday morning from a home in Vermont South and it's believed several other properties were targeted across Melbourne. The urgency of the raid was necessary to prevent the tampering and destruction of valuable evidence.

Unfortunately, all we get in Malaysia is finger pointing among top Mara officials over who is ultimately responsible for the scandalous property transaction. There was no visible urgency among our law enforcement authorities to uncover the scandal and investigate those who were named and involved in the dodgy transactions at the expense of Mara.

All we have heard is that the Federal Commercial Crime Investigation Department director, Datuk Seri Mortadza Nazarene, said Bukit Aman was aware of the issue based on media reports, but had yet to receive any request from Australia.

“We are always ready to help in any way but so far, we have not received any request from Australia. The investigation is being conducted in Melbourne and we can only get involved if local police ask for assistance,” he said.

Malaysians cannot be blamed for feeling completely helpless that even the Police are not doing anything to uncover the crimes against institutions entrusted to judiciously protect. Why is Bukit Aman waiting for a “request from Australia” before conducting its investigations?

While the crime transaction may have taken place in Melbourne, the money is from the Malaysian government and the alleged criminals are all Malaysians residing in the country. Does that not give sufficient basis for the Police to urgently conduct its own investigations by conducting the necessary raids?

The heavy inertia doesn’t just stop at the recent Mara scandal. Malaysians today are staring at the single largest financial scandal in the history of Malaysian – the RM42 billion 1Malaysia Development Bhd imbroglio. However the Police has failed to demonstrate any sense of exigency despite the scandal boiling over for the past 6 months.

All we got was a short statement by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar who only confirmed “that the investigation is being carried out.”

In fact, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar even alluded to the fact that none of the key protagonists like Low Taek Jho or the top management of the 1MDB scandal have been called for questioning when he asserted, “…in commercial cases such as this, we do not arrest first and then investigate. We have to investigate it first and then only make the arrest if needed”.

As far as we are aware, no raids have been conducted either on the relevant companies.

Hence the speed at which the Australian Police have reacted to the media report puts our own force to shame. All we have is a Prime Minister who appeared more interested in emphasizing yesterday that all these culpable GLC bigwigs are “innocent until proven guilty”.

Tony Pua

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