The probe into Mr Daim’s financial affairs is now spreading to corporate personalities believed to be his business proxies and deals that he personally administered over when in government, including the closure of the over-the-counter stock-trading system in Singapore called CLOB in 1998.
Embattled former Malaysian finance minister Daim Zainuddin has been taken ill at a time when the investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is spreading beyond his family’s financial holdings and into the affairs of his business proxies, high-profile corporate personalities and a large cross-border corporate exercise with Singapore in the late 1990s.
Meanwhile, a separate fight is shaping up in the Malaysian courts.
The High Court on Tuesday (Jan 16) heard arguments from Mr Daim’s lawyers and government prosecutors over a suit filed by the former politician’s family for an order to compel the agency to halt all investigations against them, lift the seizure of Ilham Tower and return all documents and material that have been seized during the course of the probe.
Mr Tommy Thomas, Malaysia’s former Attorney General who is representing Mr Daim’s family, argued that the former politician was being subjected to an investigation under laws that were formulated after he had retired as a public official.
“Furthermore, Daim is already 85, and he may not remember events of 25 to 26 years ago, and this is unfair and may prejudice him,” Mr Thomas said.
Senior federal counsel Liew Horng Bin protested, arguing that there was no statutory limitation for the investigating authorities to investigate a purported crime and a ruling in Mr Daim’s favour would open the flood gates to halt other ongoing investigations.
Judge Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh said that he would deliver his decision on the suit on March 4.
CNA understands that the frail and diminutive Mr Daim, who suffers from kidney-related ailments, was admitted last Friday into a private hospital in the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur.
It took place just hours before he was scheduled to meet with MACC investigators to record a statement on the ongoing anti-graft probe, according to three senior government officials who spoke to CNA on condition of anonymity.
The sources noted that the MACC investigators had requested to record the statement from Mr Daim at the Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya since Saturday, but his medical team insisted that he was in no position to be questioned.
The situation remains unchanged on Tuesday, according to the sources. Executives from Mr Daim’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
The MACC’s move against Mr Daim is part of an anti-money laundering investigation that began in late May last year into a controversial corporate transaction valued at RM2.3 billion (US$500 million) in November 1997.
It involved publicly listed Renong Bhd and United Engineers Malaysia Bhd (UEM), two entities that were former cornerstones of the business empire tied to the one-time ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party.
Soon after the probe began, the MACC froze the bank accounts of companies connected to Mr Daim’s business and ordered him to declare his financial holdings and other assets belonging to members of his family.
Mr Daim has repeatedly rebuffed those demands and the faceoff took a nasty turn on Dec 21 when the anti-graft agency seized the multi-million dollar Ilham Tower, a prime commercial building in the capital Kuala Lumpur owned by Mr Daim’s family.
Since the seizure, the MACC has been turning up the heat.
Government sources close to the situation said that the probe has moved into the affairs of Mr Daim’s key nominees and associates who are representatives in a stable of companies that the MACC believes is linked to the former politician.
They include businessman Mohd Nasir Ali, Lutfiah Ismail and lawyer Josephine Premela Sivaratnam, who together are representatives on listed entities such as investment holding concern Kuala Lumpur City Corp Bhd, property developer Plenitude Bhd and Langkah Bahagia Bhd, which has investments in the banking sector.
Easily one of the country’s wealthiest and most politically influential personalities in the country, Mr Daim has been pivotal in shaping the national economy and the country’s corporate sector.
Now, the often controversial role that Mr Daim played in organising and orchestrating developments from behind the scenes when he was in government is coming under the radar of the MACC.
THE CLOB AFFAIR
Government official close to the situation told CNA that of particular interest are the corporate transactions that were widely seen as forced divestments by businessmen caught on the wrong side of the political divide and the closure in September 1998 of the so-called Central Limit Order Book, or CLOB, an informal trading platform that offered investors the trading in the stocks of a large selection of Malaysian listed companies in the Singapore bourse.
Singapore set up CLOB in 1990 after Kuala Lumpur banned the trading of stocks in Malaysian companies on the Singapore exchange.
Malaysia grudgingly tolerated the CLOB platform because stockbrokers based in Singapore took some of the load from their overburdened Malaysia counterparts who could not cope with the deluge of business as the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange exploded during the boom years of the 1990s.
Source : Channel News Asia