Tunku Abdul Aziz takes potshots at Dr M’s years as prime minister


Tunku Abdul Aziz zeroed in on the Bank Bumiputera case some three decades ago which left “billions disappeared into thin air”, and an alleged scapegoat complaining that he had acted based on instructions from “high above”.

(The Malaysian Insider) – The chairman of Malaysia’s anti-graft advisory board said he believes Malaysia will be able to resolve issues surrounding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) faster than any of the financial scandals during the time of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Writing in his column in the New Straits Times, Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim who is the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory board chairman, said this was because Malaysia was now more transparent, compared to during Dr Mahathir’s time.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said Malaysia needed to find all the answers to 1MDB’s financial conundrum, and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had done the right thing by getting the Auditor-General to investigate the government-owned firm.

“We will, in our current climate of openness, get a lot faster to the bottom of 1MDB’s shortcomings, if indeed there are problems, than we got out of the investigations into financial and other excesses during the lost ethical years when Dr Mahathir was prime minister,” wrote Tunku Abdul Aziz in his column in the Umno-controlled English daily.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said that Dr Mahathir, who is now Najib and 1MDB’s biggest critic, had himself embarked on a number of “outrageously questionable ventures” during his time as prime minister, and none of the real perpetrators had ever been brought to book.

Also the director of the International Institute of Public Ethics, he zeroed in on the Bank Bumiputera case some three decades ago which left “billions disappeared into thin air”, and an alleged scapegoat complaining that he had acted based on instructions from “high above”.

“Soon after Dr Mahathir took over the reins of government, a horrendous financial scandal engulfed Bank Bumiputera Berhad, incorporated in 1978 as the vehicle to launch the Malays into business.

“Touted as the flagship of the New Economic Policy, by 1988 it had assets worth more than US$15 billion (RM54 billion).”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said the bank moved aggressively into overseas ventures, lending recklessly to politically well-connected companies and individuals, many of whom did not have the capacity nor the intention of repaying the loans.

He said the bank then shifted large sums to its wholly-owned subsidiary, Bumiputera Malaysia Finance Limited (BMF), which in turn lent nearly US$1 billion to a “Hong Kong $2 company” called Plessey Investment and another called Carrian Investment Limited.

“George Tan, the man behind Carrian, within months of the BMF money going through the books, ran his company into the ground. Billions disappeared into thin air.”

He said a committee set up in Malaysia to investigate the scandal recommended that criminal proceedings be taken against those involved, but no action took place in Malaysia.

In contrast, Hong Kong took criminal action against the perpetrators as soon as the scandal broke, with “scapegoats” quickly identified and “persuaded” to come forward, including Lorrain Osman, the then-chairman of BMF, who later fled to London, said Tunku Abdul Aziz.

“In Malaysia, Dr Mahathir’s studied indifference served to reinforce suspicions of high-level complicity.”

Tunku Abdul Aziz said the most damning indictment was the claim made by a Hong Kong lawyer that BMF and its parent, Bank Bumiputera Malaysia Berhad, accepted an agreement based on cosy ties between senior politicians and bank officers, and that his clients simply carried out orders.

However, this was never proven in Malaysia, he wrote.

Tunku Abdul Aziz said he met Lorrain a few years ago in London before the latter died, and asked him who was behind the Carrian affair.