Malaysia Appoints New Anti-Graft Chief

Hata Wahari and Fahirul N. Ramli
Kuala Lumpur
160729-MY-banner-620 Banners announcing the farewell of Malaysian anti-graft agency Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed (center) and his deputies, Mustafar Ali (left) and Mohd Shukri Abdull, appear at its headquarters in Putrajaya, July 29, 2016.
Fahirul N. Ramli/BenarNews

The Malaysian anti-graft agency that probed a corruption scandal linked to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad is being revamped.

The government announced Friday that a senior official from the office of Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali, who had cleared Najib of any criminal offenses in the 1MDB affair, would take over the helm of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) from Monday.

Dzulkifli Ahmad, who headed the national revenue recovery enforcement team of the Attorney-General’s Chambers, would replace Chief Commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed, Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa said in a statement Friday.

Journalists attending a farewell ceremony at MACC headquarters for Abu Kassim, who had announced his retirement more than a month ago, were shocked to see banners disclosing that his two top deputies were leaving as well.

According to Ali's statement, Deputy Chief Commissioner (Prevention) Mustafar Ali was being transferred to  become chief of the Immigration Department, also starting Monday.

There was no mention in the statement about the status of Deputy Chief Commissioner (Operations) Mohd Shukri Abdull but, in a separate statement, MACC said he would enroll in a course at a local university before retiring in October.

“All three leaders of the MACC have contributed enormously to the commission for more than three decades of their service especially in successfully transforming the commission,” it said.

In a tearful farewell speech, Mohd Shukri admitted that he had been accused of “toppling the government” together with Abu Kassim towards the end of his retirement.

Abu Kassim, in his own message, urged MACC staff to provide support to the new chief commissioner although Dzulkifli is an "outsider."

“MACC officers must provide information and be influential to the new commissioner as the MACC is a leading anti-corruption agency,” Abu Kassim said.

Pressured to step down?

The commission under Abu Kassim has led a probe into 1MDB and, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal last month, the agency had asked the attorney general to file criminal charges against Najib over money that he received in his bank accounts via entities linked to 1MDB.

The commission has been praised by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for its “tremendous courage” in investigating corruption at 1MDB.

The FBI had been working with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which last week filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize more than U.S. $1 billion in assets allegedly obtained with money siphoned from 1MDB and laundered through American institutions.

Najib had been tied to the scandal since the Wall Street Journal reported in July 2015 that hundreds of millions of dollars originating from 1MDB landed in his private bank accounts.

Some of the money was used to pay for political spending in Malaysia as well as clothing and jewels, the new paper had reported, citing people familiar with probes in two countries, bank-transfer information and other documents.

Last month, the Journal, quoting a person familiar with the matter, said that Abu Kassim’s decision to resign was a result of pressure from Najib. But Abu Kassim, according to a report by Malaysia's state-run Bernama news agency, had said he wasn't withdrawing under pressure and that he had requested to end his contract earlier to take up another opportunity.

Najib came under fire from critics last year after he replaced Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, who also had led investigations into 1MDB fiasco, with Apandi.

Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who heads the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, a think-tank, expressed his concern that an "outsider" had been appointed to lead the anti-graft agency, saying it would "affect the reputation of MACC."

"The government’s image to fight corruption has been dented with such an appointment that could now bring doubt to the integrity of the commission,” he told BenarNews.

He said Dzulkifli’s main challenge was to gain the trust of Malaysians that the agency would perform its duties "without fear and favor."

“We have seen the commission investigating all types of cases without favoritism. Whether it's the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister, everyone must be fully investigated [if there are any allegations against them].”


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