On Friday, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that Japan's Mitsui and Co. had paid about 300 million yen (2.8 million dollars) in kickbacks to Malaysia's biggest telecom firm in return for its purchase of telephone switchboards.
Asahi Shimbun quoted the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau as the source for its report that the money was funneled to the Malaysian side through a consultant firm in Malaysia, which turned out to be a dummy company.
The influential Japanese daily reported that in a syndicate with the high-tech giant NEC Corp., Mitsui landed orders from Telecom Malaysia in late 1996 for the switchboards with a total capacity of about 800,000 circuits.
The Japanese syndicate won the deal, estimated at more than 10 billion yen, by outdoing a number of European rival bids, the report said. The switchboards were delivered to Telecom Malaysia from 1996 to 1998.
Mitsui registered the kickbacks, paid in 1997 to the Malaysian agent under a consultant contract, as "commissions" which were construed as "losses", but the tax bureau is believed to have determined that the payments were rewards for the orders and were categorised as taxable "entertainment fees".
Mitsui was also found to have paid a total of 100 million yen in similarily questionable payments to South Korea, Morocco, Jordan and Qatar in the name of "agent fees" and other items.
Asahi Shimbun reported that the tax bureau has fined Mitsui about 900 million yen in taxes and penalties for failing to report some 2.1 billion yen in income in three years to March 1998, including the 400 million yen kickbacks which were originally booked as losses.
In another report, the Kyodo news agency quoted sources close to Mitsui as saying the company often paid "commissions" to influential local people who provided information to its overseas agencies, upon winning contracts for projects.
The silence of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) on the Asahi Shimbun report of Mitsuiís 300 million yen (US2.8 million) kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia is most shocking when only a week ago the ACA director general Datuk Ahmad Zaki was making front-page headlines about taking the fight against corruption to the private sector.
Malaysians can also remember that Zaki was very quick on-the-draw in October last year when the former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid made public his statutory declaration that former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had amassed a fortune of RM3 billion while in government through 20 "Master Accounts".
Azmi immediately swung into action and announced the setting up of a special ACA team to investigate into Muradís allegations as "almost every paragraph" of Muradís seven-page statutory declaration contained some information on corruption or corruption practices.
Mahathir in his Ministerial statement tomorrow should explain why ACA has this time been paralysed into silence instead of swinging into immediate action to unearth the extent of the corruption involved in Mitsuiís 300 million yen (US2.8 million) kickbacks to Telekom Malaysia, the identity of the ''consultant firm" which acted as the conduit in receiving the kickbacks and the personalities behind this dummy company, the role of the any Cabinet Minister or Telekoms official in the corruption.
Furthermore, whether the ACA would launch a full-scale investigation into the kickbacks syndrome in the award of mega-contracts in all aspects of Malaysian industry in the past decade.
Mahathir should also advert in the Ministerial statement the outcome of the investigations by the ACAís special team into Muradís allegations or whether with the November 1999 general election over and the publicity damage against Anwar and the reformasi movement achieved, the ACA has also quietly forgotten about Muradís allegations.