By INS Contributors
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Several Members of Parliament from the country’s opposition coalition have raised concerns over what they said were “excessive” assets held by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s chief Azam Baki.
The group, led by Sivarasa Rasiah, an MP with the People’s Justice Party (PKR) said Azam holds shares worth millions of ringgit in two public-listed companies, having acquired them between April 30, 2015 and March 2016.
“We are of the opinion that an investigation under the MACC Act (2009) needs to be conducted.
“The official in question must be investigated over his assets and liabilities, and if it is found that, compared to his income the assets are excessive, if this is found, then clearly it is a serious crime that can be punished with seven years in jail. It is not a light offence,” he told a press conference in the parliament.
Under the country’s laws a civil servant is prohibited from owning more than RM 100,000 (U.S. 23,000) value of shares in any company and also requires them to declare all their assets to their heads of department.
“The following questions arise. What is the source of funds he used to purchase these shares and warrants? Did he declare these assets to his superiors,” he asked.
More disturbingly, Sivarasa raised concerns over a conflict of interest: Azam’s younger brother, identified as Nasir Baki, owns shares in a privately owned “intelligence” company called RI Intelligence, which provides supposedly “intelligence services and claims to be able to do executive searches for those requiring a more extensive background check on certain individuals”.
The company’s corporate website is no longer functioning but internet archives reveal that it is “trusted” by Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRT Corp) a company fully owned by the Minister of Finance (Incorporated), prominently featuring a quote by Shahril Mokhtar, the Chief Executive Officer of MRT Corp.
“The question we are asking is whether there is a conflict of interest with Azam considering his position as the MACC chief commissioner. Can he give his guarantee to the Malaysian public that resources and human resources and facilities of the MACC are not being used or have no connection to the company where his younger brother plays the role of a substantial shareholder, because the ability of the MACC is indeed about investigating and collecting information. This is relevant to the business conducted by that company,” he said.
Another MP Sim Tze Tzin said an urgent and independent investigation should be started to follow the paper trail, and called on Azam to go on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
“For the MACC it has to be cleaner than clean. They must be the gold standard from an anti-corruption point of view.
“If this allegation, this evidence, must be investigated as soon as possible, there is an urgent need to investigate and I urge Azam Baki to vacate, go on leave to facilitate the investigation, whether by the MACC, police or Parliament,” he said.
Among the other MPs at the press conference were Fahmi Fadzil (Lembah Pantai), Maria Chin Abdullah (Petaling Jaya), , Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (Ledang) and Hassan Karim (Pasir Gudang), who are all pushing for the matter to be debated in parliament as well as for the MACC itself to be placed under parliamentary oversight.
Azam had taken over the MACC’s top job from Latheefa Koya, a prominent anti-corruption activist who had been appointed to the job by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, in March last year.
The 57- year-old began his career with the agency in 1984 as an assistant investigation officer, having climbed the ranks over his 30 plus years in service.