Analysis: Resurfaced Pandora and Panama papers cast doubt over Malaysia’s anti-graft


Some politicians have questioned MACC’s explanation that the investigations into both Mr Daim and Mr Mirzan are part of the anti-graft agency’s probe into the Pandora and Panama Papers which began in August 2022. 

Senior lawyer and former minister in the prime minister’s department for legal affairs and judicial reforms Zaid Ibrahim told CNA that the time gap between when the documents were published and the fact that the investigations were only conducted recently triggers a legitimate perception that the probes are done selectively. 

“It looks like (political persecution) to me because it has been so many years (since the allegedly illegal transactions were done),” said the former United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) member. 

Mr Daim had said in the wake of the leak in 2021 that his business dealings, as revealed in the Pandora Papers, were legitimate. He added that he was a “successful and wealthy” businessman long before he entered politics and that taxes had been fully paid for his businesses and income. 

Mr Daim who was finance minister from 1984 to 1991 has said that he would have accumulated over RM50 billion (US$ 10.58 billion) in liquid assets had he remained in business instead of taking up public office.

Founder of activist group Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) Cynthia Gabriel also questioned the timing of the investigations. 

“We ask for more transparency in investigations, and ask that MACC be above politics. They must also have the courage to investigate politicians currently in government, and not after they fall from power,” said Ms Gabriel.   

Ms Gabriel also said that the fight against corruption should not be selective, giving the example of deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi whose graft charges in court were dropped back in September of last year. 

“There is something fishy going on, and the prime minister must know the rakyat (the citizen population) is watching him very carefully,” she added. 

However, some analysts defended the timing of MACC’s investigations, and its decision to focus the probe on Mr Daim and Mr Mirzan. 

Politics expert Professor James Chin of the University of Tasmania told CNA: “The reason why Daim and Mahathir are being investigated now is because they are in the opposition (camp to PM Anwar). Previously when Mahathir was prime minister it was just not practical that he would investigate himself. Just not possible.” 

Dr Mahathir served as prime minister for two terms. The first was between 2003-2018 when he was UMNO chief and the second term was between 2018-2020 as Pakatan Harapan chief. 

In a press conference on Monday (Jan 22), Dr Mahathir claimed that Mr Mirzan was being investigated because he was his son.

“My son has to explain his business, his money, his property from 1981, the year I became Prime Minister until now. Not long. Only 42 years. I am quite sure all of you know what you did over the past 42 years,” he said sarcastically.

Mr Anwar had been fired from Cabinet in 1998 following a falling out with Dr Mahathir over the handling of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

In 1999, Mr Anwar was sentenced to six years’ jail for corruption. A nine-year prison sentence was then added in 2000 for sodomy charges, a move he said was aimed to put an end to his political career.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Dr Azmi Hassan echoed similar sentiments, saying that he believed that the likes of Mr Daim and his family were being investigated now because they were considered “untouchable” by law enforcement during the era of Dr Mahathir.   

“To me it doesn’t matter which one of these names are investigated, as long as there is merit to the case. Whether the infringement was done yesterday or two decades ago, if there is merit, it must be investigated,” said Dr Azmi. 

Commenting on the MACC investigations, Mr Anwar had said on Jan 20 that the investigations into political elite was a difficult process and that the government needed to dedicate huge resources. 

“We will go after the crooks, I don’t care… When we want to take action (against these individuals), the people get angry, saying that this Prime Minister is too harsh. For me, this is strange; you should support it (investigations). It’s not easy, you know, to investigate a Tun (the highest civilian honour that can be awarded to a Malaysian.)

“Investigating a village chief is easy. Investigating a school teacher is even easier. I want to investigate the big shots who steal big money. Do you think it’s easy? It’s not. We want to protect this country; don’t let them steal the people’s wealth,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.

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