Bank Negara’s possible culpability in 1MDB comes under spotlight

Anti-graft activist says current governor, predecessor must be included in new probe

The Vibes

Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz has been urged to break her “elegant silence” on the revelation that 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB)-linked funds had been repatriated from a company in Singapore owned by her husband.

An anti-corruption crusader and several politicians have called for an immediate investigation on the extent of the central bank’s knowledge, or even culpability, in the 1MDB scandal.

They said the investigation must include focus on Zeti and current Governor Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, particularly on whether they were aware of the funds being under the firm, Cutting Edge Industries Ltd.

According to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Cutting Edge is owned by Zeti’s husband, Datuk Tawfiq Ayman, and Samuel Goh.

Cynthia Gabriel, executive director of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, said the entire country is flabbergasted with reports on the matter as it hits on the sanctity of Malaysia’s financial institutions.

She said Zeti must break her elegant silence and answer the people over concerns about a possible serious conflict of interest.

As governor of BNM at the time of 1MDB, she had the prime responsibility of investigating how money entered the country.

“Instead, we now learn that she may have been so directly complicit that her integrity is severely questioned. She must answer this, and her pregnant silence reeks of terrible rot in our public institutions,” she told The Vibes.

On November 19, MACC revealed that the Singaporean government had assisted in the return of 1MDB-linked assets worth US$15.4 million (RM65 million) to Malaysia involving the accounts of Cutting Edge.

Tawfiq was previously questioned by police in connection with the 1MDB funds, and served as a witness in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial.

Zeti and Nor Shamsiah could not be reached for comments on the matter.

Surely as the main regulator of the financial sector, Bank Negara Malaysia would be informed of large-scale funds being transferred between banks and companies, says Klang MP Charles Santiago. 

Klang MP Charles Santiago said he was suspicious of BNM when details of money laundering began to emanate from 1MDB at the initial stage of the controversy, especially as it involved huge sums of money transfers.

“Surely as the main regulator of the financial sector, BNM would be informed of large-scale funds being transferred between banks and companies,” he said.

“Whenever a large sum of transfer goes through, the central bank would logically be notified.”

Santiago called for an investigation to begin now on whether officials in the central bank were complicit in the trail of money laundering from 1MDB.

Need to quell concerns about BNM

Former PKR senator Mohd Yusmadi Mohd Yusoff said the issue poses such a serious allegation that the authorities need to take necessary action to quell public worry about sacred institutions like BNM.

The central bank is entrusted to ensure that our financial architecture and banking are sound and protected from corruption. So, an investigation should be held.”

In a statement, MACC said it managed to return 1MDB assets amounting to RM20,530,433,626.97 to the government with the cooperation and assistance of international enforcement agencies.

On November 12, Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department returned money belonging to former SRC International Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Nik Faisal Ariff Kamil through the Finance Ministry’s Assets Recovery Trust Account totalling US$864,813.27.

The government’s current recovery efforts are focused on parties that have caused losses to 1MDB and SRC during the execution of their duties, whether through direct or indirect involvement in 1MDB and SRC’s various operations and transactions.

Meanwhile in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, Barisan Nasional (BN) and PAS MPs called for an immediate MACC investigation.

Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim notes Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz had been quoted in past news reports as saying that any allegations relating 1Malaysia Development Bhd funds to her family were false. 

Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim, BN MP for Baling, said Zeti had been quoted in past news reports as saying that any allegations relating 1MDB funds to her family were false.

He also took Pakatan Harapan to task for appointing Zeti as Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman, and as a member of the Council of Eminent Persons when the coalition took control of the federal government from May 2018 to February last year.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said the matter is currently being investigated by police.

Azeez said it should be investigated by MACC, noting: “This is something the people need and want to know.”

Datuk Che Abdullah Mat Nawi, PAS MP for Tumpat, told Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun that Azeez’s suggestion should be included in the Budget 2022 committee stage debates.