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Friday, August 27, 2010

High profile probes bring hope

By Terence Fernandez, TheSun


WHILE they keep getting hammered everyday from all sides – mostly due to their own doing – it is a little known fact that the commercial crimes division of the Royal Malaysia Police, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and the Attorney-General (A-G)’s Chambers have opened investigation papers on several high-profile individuals.
Whether these investigations will culminate in successful prosecutions remain to be seen; but for now we are hopeful that the present leadership is serious in cleaning up house, where in some instances the rot had been allowed to fester for decades.

It can be revealed that the authorities are investigating at least two senior government officials, former ministers and a former and current state political leader. MPs from both sides of the divide are also included.

It is understood these probes cover various offences of corruption and financial impropriety. The specifics cannot be revealed as it may interfere in investigations but according to sources, the focus is on certain individuals having property disproportionate to their income; being accused of abuse of power; receiving kickbacks and even money laundering.

The investigators’ task is made even more challenging as some of the assets under probe are in the names of family members and proxies. Due to the complexities of such investigations into ill-gotten gains which involve cross-border probes, the authorities require experienced and specifically skilled personnel which they now have.

It is a known fact that in the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) probe, the A-G’s Chambers had roped in accountants, auditors and other experts to assist in fleshing out discrepancies from the tonnes of files, minutes, ledgers and invoices, to draw up charges against the players.

Up till now, this task force had helped identify four suspects which has since seen the arraignment of former transport minister Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik.

Will we be seeing more "big fish"? Your guess is as good as mine but the fact remains that the investigations into some of the individuals mentioned in the beginning of this column started a year ago.

"The prime minister has promised the government’s full co-operation in weeding out those allegedly involved in abuse of the public trust or used their position to enrich themselves," said a close contact.

I am made to understand that Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak is regularly briefed on the status of the investigations due to the "political sensitivities" involved.

One cannot accuse the premier of "interference" as the political reality is that he needs to ward off the hounds which are trying to scuttle the investigations by exerting political influence and pressure.

It is no secret that there is constant lobbying behind the scenes by the supporters of some of those under investigation, where the prime minister at one closed-door meeting is said to have remarked that protecting friends may result in one losing the elections.

However, a source close to the investigations assures me: "They are trying to use political might to influence the outcome of the probe, but I think the powers-that-be are looking at the bigger picture and that the full might of the law must be brought to bear on the guilty without fear or favour."

"This also shows that the MACC and Attorney-General’s Chambers are not negotiable entities. They cannot be compromised, and will leave no stone unturned in bringing to book the guilty," he tried to convince me.

Of course such statements make great PR for the likes of the authorities which had been the public’s favourite punching bag; but strong words alone are insufficient to mend tattered reputations.

But these agencies, for all their faults are the only ones we have to work with – unless we want to call for a royal commission each time someone falls off a building or the prosecution is alleged to have been compromised.

Hence, while it is incumbent on us to keep them on their toes, we should also allow the police, MACC and the A-G’s Chambers to perform their tasks unfettered.

Right now, the main person who can ensure this is the prime minister who deserves the support of all to fulfil his pledge for a clean and transparent government.

All we are asking is for the law to take its course, where the guilty ones are made to face the music and the innocent exonerated.

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