Malaysia’s ex-finance minister charged with failure to declare assets

If found guilty, Daim Zainuddin faces a maximum prison term of five years and a RM100,000 fine.

Eileen Ng

Eileen Ng

The Straits Times


Daim’s prosecution is the latest graft crackdown involving prominent political and business figures. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

January 30, 2024

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s former finance minister Daim Zainuddin was charged on Jan 29 with allegedly failing to declare his assets, amid concerns that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is using graft crackdowns selectively against his political foes.

Prosecutors allege that Daim failed to declare ownership in 38 companies; 25 plots of land and properties in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang and Kedah; seven luxury vehicles and two investment fund accounts under the country’s anti-graft laws.

The 85-year-old pleaded not guilty in a Kuala Lumpur court.

“I don’t wish to say much about this political charge against me. I am not guilty, and I look forward to my day in court,” he said in a statement after being charged.

If found guilty, Daim faces a maximum prison term of five years and a RM100,000 (S$28,400) fine.

Judge Azura Alwi set bail at RM280,000 but did not impose any additional conditions after Daim’s lawyer, Mr M. Puravalen, told the court that his client is “not going anywhere” due to his health condition.

Daim, who arrived in court in a wheelchair with his family, was a kidney transplant patient, has hearing difficulties and suffered minor strokes. One of his eyes was removed due to a fungal infection, Mr Puravalen said.

Judge Azura also advised parties in the case not to issue any statements, and set March 22 for the next mention.

Daim’s prosecution is the latest graft crackdown involving prominent political and business figures.

On Jan 23, Daim’s wife, Na’imah Abdul Khalid, was charged with failing to disclose her assets to graft investigators.

Also in January, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) summoned Mr Mirzan Mahathir and Mr Mokhzani Mahathir, sons of former premier Mahathir Mohamad, for questioning over their respective business activities. They were ordered to declare all their assets within 30 days.

Others being questioned for alleged corruption offences include former premier Muhyiddin Yassin and his son-in-law, as well as opposition chief Hamzah Zainuddin.

In his Jan 29 statement, Daim said independent institutions like the MACC, Attorney-General’s Chambers and Inland Revenue Board have been made tools for pursuing political opponents. He said: “Like many others who wanted a new Malaysia, I had come out to support Pakatan Harapan and Anwar Ibrahim in 2018. Then, the nation was under the shadow of the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) scandal.

“But now, we are under the shadow of an administration that is abusing its powers while betraying all the promises of reform – a wolf in sheep’s clothing that cries reforms but does the polar opposite.”

A close ally of Tun Dr Mahathir, Daim was finance minister from 1984 to 1991 and rejoined the Cabinet between 1998 and 2001, after Dr Mahathir sacked Datuk Seri Anwar, then the finance minister.

Daim is also a fierce critic of Mr Anwar, who came to power in 2022 vowing to stamp out high-level corruption. Daim has called the probe into his affairs a “political witch-hunt”.

Dr Mahathir has also claimed that the investigation is politically motivated.

The MACC had explained that the investigation carried out against Daim is based on existing laws and information from the Pandora Papers, which shone a light on tax evasion by the rich and powerful around the world.

Mr Anwar has lauded the MACC for acting against those who were found to be corrupt, regardless of their position and status.

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