There may not be a multi-billion dollar 1MDB scandal equated as “kleptocracy at its worst” if the recommendations of the Ahmad Nordin Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) Inquiry Committee had been acted on by the 1986 Mahathir government
This thought struck me when I read Chooi Mun Sou’s memoirs – “Malaysia My Home – Quo Vadis”.
Well-known lawyer Chooi was a member of the three-man BMF Inquiry committee set up in January 1984, headed by the then Auditor-General, the redoubtable Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin as Chairman and the other member being accountant Ramli Ibrahim, to inquire into the RM2.5 billion scandal – which Mahathir had subsequently described as “a heinous crime” but I added,” a heinous crime without criminals”.
I am reminded of my speech in Parliament on the BMF inquiry Committee’s BMF Final Report in March 1986, I warned that unless the conspirators were brought to justice, another banking or financial scandal which would be 10 or 20 times bigger than the BMF scandal would happen – and this unfortunately came to pass three decades later in the form of the mega 1MDB scandal!
In 1979, at the UMNO General Assembly, the then Prime Minister , Hussein Onn warned that “the country will be destroyed if its leaders are dishonest, untrustworthy and corrupt” and expressed the hope that the Bank Rakyat fiasco would be a ‘bitter lesson to other government institutions and agencies including companies and subsidiaries set up by the Government”.
The Bank Rakyat scandal that Hussein Onn referred to at the 1979 UMNO General Assembly involved $150 million but the BMF scandal was 20 times bigger in magnitude than the Bank Rakyat scandal.
The 1MDB scandal which is now haunting Malaysia is a different kettle of fish altogether.
The Finance Minister, Tengku Zafrul told the March Parliament that the 1MDB debts of the government was RM32.3 billion in principal and RM6.5 billion in interest, while the Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Azam Baki said recently that total assets forfeited and returned to the Malaysian government last year was about RM5.1 billion, with 99.57 per cent of it linked to !MDB.
Will there be a UMNO President whether this year or next year who dare, like Hussein Onn, warn at the UMNO General Assembly that Malaysia will be destroyed if the leaders are dishonest, untrustworthy and corrupt – and if there is further 2MDB or 3MDB scandals in Malaysia?
This seems unlikely as the culprits of the 1MDB scandal, which caused the country the odium and infamy of being regarded by the world as a kleptocracy, are trying to become champions against corruption while denying that the 1MDB was a mega scandal of trust, fraud and corruption!
In the March 1986 Parliament, I called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to follow up on the fresh leads and complete the work of the Ahmad Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee to expose any political leaders involved in the RM2.5 billion BMF scandal. Unfortunately, this was not done.
As recorded in Chooi’s memoirs, the main culprits in the BMF scandal finally got their deserts:
Lorraine Osman earned the dubious honour of being the longest serving unconvicted prisoner in British history where he embarked on a seven-year fight against extradition, but eventually pleaded guilty in Hong Kong to one charge of conspiracy to defraud involving US$292 million. He was sentenced to one year’s jail after the judge took into account his plea and the seven years he spent in Brixton prison. Because of his time held in remand in Hong Kong, the actual time he served of his sentence was 53 days.
Hisham Shamsuddin pleaded guilty to four charges, two for conspiracy to defraud and two of receiving bribes, and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years jail which later was enhanced to10 years when he appealed. After serving seven years, he was released.
Rais Saniman was finally extradited from France to Hong Kong in 1994, where he pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to defraud BMF and given five years jail.
George Tan, an illegal immigrant in Hong Kong and at the point he created the Carrian group, an undischarged bankrupt in Singapore, was arrested in Hong Kong on Oct. 3, 1983. He was finally sentenced to three years’ jail in 1996 after he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud BMF.
But what is worth noting is that these actions against the Bank Bumiputra/BMF directors and George Tan were not the result of the efforts of the Malaysian Government but of the Hong Kong authorities.
It is tragic that the BMF scandal caused two deaths – the murder in Hong Kong in July 1983 of Jalil Ibrahim, the Bank Bumiputra internal auditor who was sent to be BMF assistant general manager in Hong Kong and the suicide of a senior solicitor John Wimbush.
Chooi was right to name his memoirs – “Malaysia My Home – Quo Vadis”.