ACA should admit its failure in the Perwaja probe and pledge full support for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to take over investigations

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang 

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday): The Anti-Corruption Agency does not inspire much confidence when it announced that it would summon former Perwaja Steel Sdn Bhd chairman Tan Sri  Eric Chia to assist investigations over the RM11 billion Perwaja steel scandal.

ACA director of investigations Abdul Razak Idris said a team of officers would meet Chia as soon as possible following his statement in an interview with Singapore Straits Times last Friday (Sept. 8, 2000) on his readiness to testify in court and  "tell all" about the nation’s biggest financial scandal - the Perwaja steel scandal which had burdened Malaysian taxpayers with losses exceeding RM11 billion.

Abdul Razak said:

It is very sad that the ACA should have to depend on a foreign newspaper to get information about the readiness of the central figure in the biggest financial scandal in the nation’s history to "tell all" when it had come out against the wall after five years of fruitless investigations since 1996, interviewing over 50 people, including meeting Chia twice to assist in investigations.

Is the ACA implying that Eric Chia had been less than forthcoming and co-operative in the two ACA interviews, and that it hoped that Eric Chia would be able to furnish the ACA with the relevant information to enable it to wrap up investigations and recommend to the Attorney-General to initiate the necessary prosecutions so that the Perwaja scandal would not end up like the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) scandal of being "a heinous crime without criminals"?

The ACA should admit its failure in the Perwaja probe and pledge full support for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to take over investigations into the biggest financial scandal in the nation’s history as Chia’s interview with Singapore Straits Times is not going to change anything as far as the ACA investigations are concerned.

The Singapore Straits Times (SST)  reported that when former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, made public the audit report on the alleged irregularities at Perwaja Steel in May 1996, "Rumours abounded that Tan Sri Chia had absconded, while some wondered why he did not come forward to defend himself".

The SST report continued:

As Chia took eight months to complete his "war chest" of documents, this would mean that by 1997, he was in a position to "tell all" about the Perwaja scandal, and there could be  no good reason why in his two meetings with the ACA, he did not give ACA all available information and documentation in his possession. I

If Chia had been frank and truthful with the ACA in the two previous interviews, he would have nothing presently to add to what he had told ACA on the Perwaja scandal.

Or had Chia withheld information and documents from the ACA which he would only "tell all" in court?

In this connection, the ACA director-general Datuk Ahmad Zaki Husin’s "exclusive" interview with the UMNO official organ, Wawasan Merdeka - carried as front-page headline news item in Berita Harian today - raises questions both about the independence and integrity of ACA as well as the efficacy of its Perwaja investigations. Is Ahmad Zaki prepared to submit himself to an interview with Rocket or Harakah as he has done for Wawasan Merdeka?

Wawasan Merdeka quoted Ahmad Zaki as denying  allegations that Eric Chia "cannot be touched" ("tidak boleh disentuh") because of his good relations with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

The Wawasan Merdeka report states:

Berita Harian reported Ahmad Zaki as saying that the ACA has found that a big sum of money from Perwaja had been transferred and are now in an account of a foreign firm registered in British Virgin Island, and it is now trying to identify the persons responsible for the misappropriation. He said before it was entered into the account of a foreign firm registered in the British Virgin Islands, this sum of money was taken out from Malaysia to Hong Kong, and then to Japan before it was put into an account in Switzerland.

This new snippet of information cannot hide the fact of the failure of the ACA in its probe into the Perwaja scandal after five years of investigations.

As Chia said that in 1996 he had written to Anwar twice asking for an  open inquiry headed by a retired judge into the Perwaja scandal, both ACA and Chia should  welcome the establishment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Perwaja scandal - the former as it had failed after five years of fruitless investigations to make any headway and the latter to give him an opportunity to clear his name after  being made "to look like a villain on the run, from friends and the law".


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman