(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The Brisbane district court yesterday fixed May 18 for the trial of UMNO Vice President and former Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib, who is charged with failing to declare over A$1.2 million (RM2.4 million) in cash when leaving Australia last December. Under the Australian Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988, Muhammad is liable to a fine not exceeding A$5,000 or two years jail or both on conviction.
He also faces a second charge of making a false declaration report that RM20,000 valued at A$9,793 was transferred into Australia, which carries a maximum fine of A$10,000 or five years jail or both on conviction.
The Muhammad Taib case is a glaring example that the Anti-Corruption Agency is a toothless tiger, despite the enactment of the new Anti- Corruption Act.
Although the ACA had announced its own investigations into Muhammad Taib's case early this year, neither it nor the Inland Revenue Department had been able to convince Malaysians that they are serious in their investigations.
One of the greatest disappointments about the Anti-Corruption Act 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.
Parliament was assured that Section 33(B) of the Anti-Corruption Act could deal with this situation. Section 33(B) of the Anti-Corruption Act provides that the Public Prosecutor can order a public officer under ACA investigations to explain his disproportionate wealth. Has the former Selangor Mentri Besar been directed to fully declare and account for his unexplained wealth?
The Muhammad Taib case is a test case as to whether Section 33(B) of the new Anti-Corruption Act is a dead letter.