Najib has completely discredited MACC

Sad and tragic. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak single-handedly demolishing the credibility, integrity and professionalism of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

And this happening just 48 hours after the MACC’s latest artificial but carefully-crafted publicity blitzkrieg to present itself as a fiercely independent, intrepid and professional anti-graft body comparable to Hong Kong’s world-famous Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) – with government-paper New Straits Times front page report “MACC gains in graft war” on Thursday and a special editorial on MACC on Friday – all collapsing like a house of cards.

MACC claims that it had seized “a whopping RM66 million worth of properties, including bungalows and luxury cars” and arrested more than 900 individuals in its “war against graft over the past two years” paled into insignificance when Najib dismissed allegations that Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has amassed billions in wealth.

Najib told a press conference this morning after the launching of the Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) - new name for Pudu Sentral: “There are all kinds of allegations, don’t bothered about it (jangan kita layan)”.

This is a most disappointing and even irresponsible response by the Prime Minister to a ground-breaking but explosive report by the Swiss-based NGO Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) which estimated the assets of Taib Mahmud’s family at US$21 billion (RM64 billion), with the wealth of Taib himself put at a whopping US$15 billion (RM46 billion) making him Malaysia’s richest man outstripping tycoon Robert Kuok who has US$12.5 billion.

The BMF report entitled ‘The Taib Timber Mafia: Facts and Figures on Politically Exposed Persons from Sarawak, Malaysia' was released last Wednesday in Brussels to coincide with a visit by the Malaysian Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok to the European Commission and is available on the Internet.

It is the first report that describes in detail the business activities and personal wealth of 20 members of the Taib family in Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, United States and other countries.

The report aimed to build international pressure against the Sarawak's first family and provide investigating bodies, journalists, Sarawakians and interested parties with hard evidence on the Taib financial empire.

BMF estimated the combined net worth of 20 Taib family members at close to US$21 billion, spread over 400 companies around the globe - all built through their near complete political and economic control of Sarawak, which has been reduced from one of the richest to one of the poorest states in Malaysia over three decades.

The BMF report on the amassing of assets worth RM64 billion by the Taib family and RM46 billion by Taib himself in his 31 years as Sarawak Chief Minister, through “monopolies over the granting of logging and plantation concessions, the export of timber, the maintenance of public roads as well as the production and sale of cement, and a number of other construction materials”, would have been one of the “highlights” of the budget parliamentary meeting beginning on Monday.

Was Najib making a pre-emptive strike this morning to send out an unmistakable message not only to MACC but to Barisan Nasional Ministers and backbenchers in Parliament not to entertain probes and questions about the BMF report on Taib family’s RM64 billion and Taib’s own RM21 billion fortunes?

I have no doubt that without Najib’s pre-emptive strike today, MACC would have taken the completely neutral but meaningless stand that it was prepared to investigate into the BMF report about Taib and his family’s gargantuan wealth and assets accumulated from 31 years of Taib’s Chief Ministership of Sarawak.

But with the stern signal from Najib today, would MACC dare to initiate investigations into Taib based on the BMF report and would there be any BN MP who would dare to endorse support for a full MACC investigation into the BMF report?

Individuals profiled in the extensive 45-page BMF report include Taib's brother Onn Mahmud, who is second richest family member with an estimated net worth of US$2 billion, while Taib's eldest son, Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib, a major player in the Sarawak construction, property and energy business, is ranked third at US$1.5 billion.

Next in line are Taib's Canada-based socialite daughter Jamilah Taib Murray (US$1 billion), Taib's brother and timber entrepreneur Tufail Mahmud (US$600 million), sister Raziah Mahmud (US$500 million), daughter Hanifah (US$400 million) and son Sulaiman (US$300 million).

Giving credibility to the BMF report are news reports today about the matrimonial dispute between Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib and his former wife Shahnaz Abdul Majid who is seeking RM400 million in mutaah (gift) and division of joint assets, and of its continued trial at the Kuala Lumpur Syariah High Court on Monday as there has been no settlement offer from Mahmud’s lawyers to resolve the long-standing dispute.

The Prime Minister is only rubbishing his Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and in particular its seven NKRAs particularly on Fighting Corruption if he is disallowing the MACC from acting on the BMF report to probe Taib Mahmud.

Najib should be reminded about the cost of corruption to the nation – which the GTP Roadmap had estimated as potentially amounting to as much as RM10 billion a year or 1-2% of GDP – and the grandiloquent statements in the GTP Roadmap about fighting the scourge of “grand corruption” by politicians and senior civil servants.

Where is the credibility of the GTP Roadmap and NKRA to fight corruption, and in particular to eradicate “grand corruption”, when the BMF report on Taib family’s RM64 billion and Taib’s own RM21 billion fortunes amassed during Taib’s 31 years as Sarawak Chief Minister could not be used by the MACC as basis for its anti-corruption mission?

The BMF report compares Taib's family with the clans of former Indonesian president Suharto and former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos - the two families had embezzled between US$15 billion and US$35 billion, and between US$20 billion and US$900 billion respectively.

The BMF report believes its research is “showing merely the tip of the iceberg as many (Taib) family assets are likely to be hidden overseas or in offshore districts where information is virtually impossible to obtain".

Najib should retract his implicit “hands off” directive to the MACC and declare unequivocally that the MACC is duty-bound to make use of the BMF report to conduct a full, thorough and wide-ranging investigation into allegations of “grand corruption” by Taib and his family in Taib’s 31-year Chief Ministership of Sarawak.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timur