MACC ends probes into Liow, Ong and Khalid

By Alyaa Alhadjri. theSun

KUALA LUMPUR (July 21, 2010): The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Council (MACC) has closed investigations into three graft allegations involving health minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, former transport minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.

Its Operation Review Panel chairman Tan Sri Hadenan Abdul Jalil said the panel agreed that the cases be closed due to lack of evidence.

The MACC had been investigating:

– Ong for allegedly receiving RM10 million from Kuala Dimensi chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing in 2008;

– Liow on allegations that a Toyota Alphard received by his wife for her birthday last year had been paid by a construction firm that was involved in projects for the Health Ministry; and

– Abdul Khalid Ibrahim on allegations of having gotten some private companies to donate cows for slaughter during Hari Raya Haji in 2008.

Hadenan said Liow’s case was closed because no “official connection” could be established between Lioe and the construction firm. He also clarified that MACC’s investigations revealed that the car was not a gift but was bought by Liow.

On Ong’s case, Hadenan said: “Datuk Seri (Ong) had announced that he had no involvement and we would like to confirm that no further action will be taken because there were no witnesses.

“We had a witness but the person that made the allegations could not prove who received the money. That is why the panel agreed that this case should be closed,” said Hadenan who did not elaborate on Khalid’s case.

Hadenan, who earlier chaired the panel’s meeting at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy, said one of the main problems faced by MACC was witnesses turning hostile when testifying in court.

“It is a dilemma that we have to face. How to make sure that witnesses remain with what they said,” Hadenan said, citing a case where an accused was acquitted and all nine prosecution witnesses were charged with perjury.

Hesaid for the first half of this year, the MACC had opened investigation papers into 637 new cases — a marked increase from around 900 cases investigated for the whole of last year.

On efforts made by MACC to improve its image in the public eye, he said the commission had two independent panels and three committees to oversee its operations.

“Our panel members are not working for MACC. We are as you are (members of the public),” said Hadenan, adding that “managing public perception of corruption in Malaysia is one of the toughest jobs”.

He stressed the importance for public to understand that MACC’s power is limited to conducting investigations, and that it had no power to prosecute.

As part of efforts to publicise its side of the story and counter criticisms and allegations on the internet, the MACC has since earlier this month set up a blog It is a platform for the commission to comment on pressing issues related to corruption.

To date, MACC has posted entries on several of its high-profile investigations, including the death of Teoh Beng Hock and the case of private investigator P. Balasubramaniam who signed two conflicting statutory declarations related to the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The blog, which is managed by MACC’s corporate communications unit, also reproduces articles from mainstream newspapers and comments from the public.

In an immediate response, the Selangor government’s information chief Dr Badrul Amin Baharom welcomed MACC’s decision to end the probe against Khalid.

“The reason given by MACC that it does not have enough evidence or witnesses after two years of investigations proves that the initial decision to charge him (Khalid) had no basis and was politically motivated to tarnish his image,” said Badrul in a statement.

Badrul called on the MACC should be professional in enforcing its duties and not “pick sides” when investigating high-profile corruption cases.