Hong Kong’s tabloid: Malaysia sets sights on tycoon Mirzan Mahathir as graft crackdown expands

THE Malaysian authorities’ crackdown on corruption in high places is said to have trained its gun on billionaire businessman Mirzan Mahathir, marking an expansion of investigations beyond initial targets.

Authorities last week seized a landmark skyscraper owned by former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin, Malaysia’s wealthiest tycoon with close ruling party ties. Now graft busters have opened a probe into Mirzan, eldest son of influential twice former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, according to Dimsum Daily.

“The widening dragnet signals Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s campaign to root out entrenched business corruption will continue gaining steam in coming months,” the Hong Kong-based tabloid pointed out.

“Critics claim the moves are politically motivated against Anwar’s rivals. But the PM insists he is merely restoring accountability regardless of a suspect’s connections.”

In fact, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman himself has described as “an open secret where a person has amassed extraordinary wealth” the confiscation of Menara Ilham which is Daim’s tower.

“The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is examining a 1990s corporate deal between United Engineers Malaysia Bhd (UEM) and Renong Bhd, a construction conglomerate linked to Daim and the former ruling party UMNO,” noted Dimsum Daily.

“Mirzan, Daim’s associate Tan Sri Halim Saad and lawyer Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Manaf are persons of interest.”

According to the tabloid, the Malaysian authorities believe over US$500 mil (RM3 bil) may have been embezzled in the opaque transaction.

“Mirzan amassed a fortune in the 1980s and 1990s through ties to UMNO patronage networks led by his father, Dr Mahathir. The nonagenarian ex-premier exerts influence through crony capitalists and political scions like Mirzan. Seizures of Daim’s assets and probes of Mirzan thus deliver an unsubtle message.”

Aside from Mirzan, Dimsum Daily further reckoned that “businessmen like tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun may grow uneasy as investigations widen”.”

“For years, politics and commerce have comprised a tight-knit ecosystem of patronage and favouritism in Malaysia. Its legacy is a class of billionaires owing success to government links rather than ingenuity. Anwar seems intent on dismantling this arrangement,” asserted the tabloid.

“Associates of Daim and Dr Mahathir unsurprisingly paint the crackdown as political score-settling. Both have bitter history with the PM. Anwar earlier pledged Daim would face ‘sleepless nights’ under his leadership.”

Added Dimsum Daily: “Regardless of motives, Malaysia’s opaque business climate needs transparency. How prosecutors proceed from headline-grabbing seizures will prove pivotal.” – Dec 29, 2023


Main photo credit: AP

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