I have sent a copy of the Brisbane Courier Mail report dated 31.12.96 on the Selangor Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Muhammad Taib’s RM2.4 million cash caper in Brisbane, Australia to the Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Datuk Shafie Yahya.
The Brisbane Courier Mail report contradicts the version the Selangor Mentri Besar had given when he returned to Malaysia, claiming that the RM2.4 million belonged to his brothers and were for the purchase of property in Gold Coast, Brisbane meant for their children so that they have a place to stay when they go to Australia to further their studies.
Tan Sri Muhammad has to date failed to clarify, reconcile or refute the Brisbane Courier Mail report of December 31, 1996 that the RM2.4 million cash for which he was arrested at the Brisbane International Airport on December 22 was "to purchase furniture and fittings for Muhammad’s new Gold Coast home" and that "A near-completed house at Sovereign Islands is built on land registered to Muhammad’s wife, Asbi Rohani binti Asnan" which was purchased in June last year for A$459,000.
I wrote to Shafie as he had announced in early January that the ACA had started investigations into the RM2.4 million cash caper of the Selangor Mentri Besar, hoping that the Australian press report might be of value to the ACA, which might also consider sending a team to Brisbane to check on the Courier Mail report.
I would be pursuing this matter and would be asking the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in Parliament next month the outcome of the ACA investigations, particularly into the discrepancy between Muhammad Taib’s explanation and the Brisbane Courier Mail report.
It is a matter of grave concern that after his initial statement by Shafie on 3rd January that the both ACA investigations into the Selangor Mentri Besar and his two former aides following the discovery of large amounts of cash in Brisbane and Shah Alam respectively in December were “separately…under way”, there had been no indication from anyone in the ACA as to whether investigations into the Selangor Mentri Besar’s RM2.4 million cash caper in Brisbane had actually started.
This is rather surprising, for there would always be reports that the ACA is investigating this or that case or this or that person, even though the details are not disclosed, but there seems to be a most unusual silence as to whether the ACA has started investigating into the Selangor Mentri Besar’s RM2.4 million cash caper in Brisbane.
The ACA should be aware that Malaysia’s ranking in the 1997 Transparency International’s (TI) international corruption perception index, which would be released in the middle of the year, would to a large extent depend on the ACA handling of this case - because of the high international profile it had acquired as a result of enormous amounts of international mass media publicity.
Last year, Malaysia’s ranking in the TI international corruption perception index had fallen from No. 23 out of 41 countries in 1995 to No. 26 out of 54 nations in 1996.
One of ACA’s chief responsibilities should be to improve Malaysia’s ranking in the 1997 TI international corruption perception index to within the first 20 least corrupt nations in the world.
However, if the ACA handling of Muhammad Taib’s RM2.4 million case strengthens the national and international perception that the ACA has no powers to conduct independent investigatons in cases involving top political leaders, then Malaysia’s ranking in the 1997 TI’s international corruption perception index may slip lower than those of previous years - which would be a big shame for Malaysia in general and the ACA in particular.