THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has denied claims of selective prosecution in its Pandora Papers inquiry.
MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said this in response to political economist Edmund Terence Gomez’s claims that MACC has not called up leaders from the government bloc despite being named in the leaked documents.
“For the Pandora Papers, MACC focuses on politically exposed persons who had the power and position during that time of alleged wrongdoing, and are suspected to have abused their power.
“The MACC is free to investigate as long as there is reason to believe that they have the position and power and are suspected of misappropriation and abuse of power. It doesn’t matter who. MACC does not practice selective prosecution as we are free to investigate without any interference or influence from others,” Malaysiakini reported him as saying.
According to Azam, the commission is unable to conduct investigations whenever it pleases since it must be supported by facts and evidence and carried out in compliance with established protocols and legal provisions.
Earlier on March 25, Gomez questioned why the MACC isn’t looking into Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Foreign Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, and Selayang MP William Leong in relation to the Pandora Papers.
However, only former finance minister Tun Dr Daim Zainuddin had been summoned, according to the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) chairperson.
The most recent update on MACC’s Pandora Papers probe came in February, when it was revealed that a former minister’s statement was recorded regarding his offshore wealth. As the person has not yet been officially charged in court, it was customary to withhold their name.
On the other hand, the former minister was described as a senior official in Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration and was reportedly requested to explain the money flow and investment into 12 offshore firms registered under him and his family members.
According to Malaysiakini, news portals citing a source said a former prime minister’s son was also summoned for questioning, with more expected to be called in.
Moreover, Azam added that other authorities are also probing the matter while the MACC’s investigation was still ongoing.
“Supposed a businessperson’s name is in the Pandora Papers, he may not have the power and position to abuse his power… so it may not be something under MACC’s purview. Other agencies like the (Inland Revenue Board) can investigate it for tax evasion.
“In this matter (Pandora Papers), MACC is not the only agency that is investigating, the police, IRB and NFCC (National Financial Crime Centre) are also investigating,” he further added.
Furthermore, the Pandora Papers are a collection of leaked financial documents and other records from 14 offshore service providers who set up and maintain shell corporations and trusts in tax havens around the world.
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was given access to the records including Malaysiakini.
Among those mentioned in the leak were Zahid, Zafrul, and Daim. Each claimed that their accounts were used for legitimate purposes in 2021.
Although owning offshore businesses is lawful, the practise has occasionally been connected to tax avoidance or evasion. In other instances, it is an attempt to maintain secrecy for various reasons. — March 30, 2023