This is when the UMNO Vice President and former Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib will go on trial in Brisbane on two charges, one for trying to leave Australia on Dec. 22 last year with RM2.4 million cash in various currencies without declaring and secondly, for a false declaration that carries a fine of A$10,000 or five years jail.
While the legal maxim that a person is innocent until proven guilty applies to Muhammad Taib as well as to any other person, the fact remains that Muhammad Taib had failed to discharge his responsibility to explain to the Malaysian public as to the source of his extraordinary wealth which had been reported in considerable detail in the Australian and New Zealand newspapers.
Although Muhammad Taib had said in April that he planned to sue the Brisbane Courier Mail for defamation for several reports about his extraodinary wealth in Australia, Muhammad Taib had not only failed to initiate any legal proceedings but there had been more reports in the Brisbane Courier Mail of other properties linked to Muhammad Taib both in Australia and New Zealand.
Malaysian interest next week will be focussed on the three-day trial in Brisbane on the two charges faced by Muhammad Taib, but what Malaysians are more interested is how Muhammad Taib could account for the extraordinary wealth which had been reported by the Australian and New Zealand press which, by last count, exceeded RM31 million.
In this connection, foreigners may wonder whether Muhammad Taib is still the Selangor Mentri Besar. This is because an Internet visitor to the Jaring page on "Politics" (http://www.jaring.my/msia/msia-link/politic.html#politic), will be introduced to the "Chief Minister of Selangor" (http://www.jaring.my/yes/mbs/mbs.htm), who is none other than Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
Muhammad Taib has resigned as Selangor Mentri Besar for over four months and there is no reason for an official website to continue to describe him as the head of the government in the Selangor state.
The RM31 million extraordinary wealth with regard to properties and expenditures which the foreign press had reported about Muhammad Taib is only a part of the former Selangor Mentri Besarís total assets and incomes - which are clearly disproportionate to his known legal sources of income.
However, Anti-Corruption Agency officers and even government leaders have lamented that under the existing anti-corruption laws, possesion of unexplained extraordinary properties and wealth by political leaders is not itself an offence of corruption, as is the case in other countries, particularly in Hong Kong.
This means that even if it could be established that a Mentri Besar or Chief Minister had acquired, not just RM31 million, but RM310 million or even RM3.1 billion during his term of office, there would be no way to charge him for corruption although there would be no other way for him to acquire such extraordinary wealth.
One of the biggest disappointments of the new Anti-Corruption Bill which had passed both Houses of Parliament and which is awaiting the Royal Assent before becoming law is that the earlier promise that unexplained wealth or ostentatious lifestyles by political leaders and government officers completely disproportionate to their known sources of income would be made into an offence of corruption had not materialised.
Although there is a provision under Section 33(3) of the Bill on unexplained wealth, however, its application is subject to so many restrictions that it is unlikely to be applied at all and would most likely remain a "dead letter" in the new legislation.
I would urge the Government to give further consideration to the failure of the Anti-Corruption Bill to provide for a clear and straightforward provision making it an offence of corruption for any political leader or public servant to have unexplained extraordinary wealth and to submit a new amendment to the next meeting of Parliament to give the new Anti-Corruption Act real teeth and power.
Otherwise, it would be both tragic and a farce when all the thunder about the all-out war against corruption is reduced to the trivial issue of gifts or souvenirs to political leaders, and whether the gifts should now be in the form of fruits!