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Dudley International House Deal : Tip of the Iceberg?

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PRESS STATEMENT, 24 June 2015, KUALA LUMPUR -Transparency International – Malaysia (TI-M) strongly urges the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) to set up a task force immediately to conduct a full investigation on a certain group of Malaysian officials, who as reported in the Australian media are alleged to have used Malaysian government investment funds to bid up the price for the Melbourne 5-storey apartment block, Dudley International House, from A$17.8 million (RM51.5 million) to A$22.5 million (RM65 million). The extra $4.75 million (RM13.7 million) was then laundered out of Australia and was allegedly paid as bribes in Malaysia.  It is clear that the MACC has power to investigate this matter even though the alleged unlawful transactions may have occurred conducted in Australia as the MACC Act has extra-territorial provisions whereby corrupt acts performed overseas are also deemed as offences committed in Malaysia.

Accordingly TI-M strongly feels there are adequate provisions in the MACC Act 2009 and AMLATFPUA 2001 to investigate and bring to justice all those who are involved if the investigation shows there are sufficient evidence that they have committed a corrupt practice. Those officers who have been found to be involved should be punished since they have betrayed the trust given to them in using the public tax payers’ money for purposes other than what was entrusted to them. MACC should also seek the assistance from their Australian counterparts to assist them in securing the relevant evidence.

The investigative report further alleges that “Malaysian officials have also used other shelf companies in Singapore, which is regarded as a tax haven, to purchase properties in Queens Street and Exhibition Street in Melbourne’s Central Business District for around A$40mil (RM115mil). This makes us question – is this just the tip of the iceberg?

TI-M welcomes Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement in his Facebook and Twitter sites where he assured that “the authorities here will conduct comprehensive investigations upon the claims, and if any wrongdoing is found, action will be taken.” It seems that corruption is no longer just the abuse of entrusted power by an individual for private gain but can also involve a group of persons colluding for collective gain across political, economic, and social spheres in our local society and across international borders. Once again TI-M laments the extensive nature of corruption in Malaysia (and now on other shores) and those fighting corruption need to break the perceived impunity protecting corrupt leaders and senior officers as indeed “the big fish” appear to escape the law ever so often.

TI-M recalls what has been stated by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) that “a procurement system that lacks transparency and competition is the ideal breeding ground for corrupt behaviour”.  TI-M calls on MACC to not only examine the procurement activities of these offshore shelf companies which are related to MARA, but also the money trails, transactions and beneficial ownership of legal entities. Corruption can be fester from both external factors and local policies in many ways, including through lack of transparency in payments by companies to foreign entities; opaque company ownership and transactions; weak money laundering and foreign bribery laws, as well as lack of stolen asset tracking measures and the existence of legal safe tax havens for the corrupt and their ill-gotten assets. MACC must also pay heed to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) Article 14 – Measures to prevent money laundering and Article 52 –Prevention and detection of transfer of proceeds of crime.

After all we all share the same vision of “A Nation that is Free of Corruption” and one thing is for sure – more needs to be done as this most disturbing case tells us!

 

 

End.

Dato’ Akhbar Satar

President,

Transparency International Malaysia

Transparency International-Malaysia is an independent, non-governmental and non-partisan organisation committed to the fight against corruption.