Malaysia

Azmin says up to voters to judge graft probe

The PKR deputy president called the case against him “political persecution”. — file picThe PKR deputy president called the case against him “political persecution”. — file picPETALING JAYA, June 6 — PKR deputy president Azmin Ali today dismissed his recently reopened 17-year-old graft probe as “political persecution”, saying he would leave the matter to the court of public opinion.

The Gombak MP questioned the authorities’ efficiency in settling cases involving government leaders, citing Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s case as an example, and said that with matters involving the opposition, there appeared to be a greater “determination” to pursue criminal charges.

“When it involves PR (Pakatan Rakyat) leaders, especially Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and myself, they are so determined and they insist that my case, after 17 years, be reviewed and revisited.

“So to me, this is political persecution and we leave it to the people to judge for themselves in the coming polls,” he told a press conference here.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was last week asked to investigate Azmin over claims that he owns RM30 million in assets, following a complaint lodged by the PKR leader’s estranged sister, Ummi Hafilda Ali.

The MACC’s operations evaluation panel (PPO) chairman Tan Sri Hadenan Abdul Jalil told reporters it had directed MACC to continue investigating Azmin based on investigation papers opened in 2009.

MACC director of investigations Mustafar Ali said the commission might haul up Azmin as well as PKR de facto leader Anwar if their testimony is required to verify certain recent claims.

Azmin has been accused by his estranged sister, a regular speaker at Umno ceramahs, of amassing assets beyond his means as a civil servant between 1995 and 1997 when he was private secretary to Anwar, who was then deputy prime minister.

Hadenan said the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) was previously unable to charge Azmin due to lack of evidence. However, recent investigations have uncovered more evidence.

Last Tuesday, Malaysia Today published an article “MACC ‘Deep Throat’ Comes out of the Closet” which alleged the ACA had gathered enough evidence to arrest and prosecute Azmin for corruption, but under orders, allegedly from Anwar, the case was buried.

Azmin had responded immediately, describing the allegations against him as mere slander.

Today, the PKR leader said the accusations against Anwar no longer hold water as the latter was cleared of the charges by the courts in May last year.

“Meaning the court had found the charge baseless,” he said.

In a News Straits Times report last Thursday, former ACA director-general Datuk Shafee Yahaya was quoted as saying he had recommended to Anwar that disciplinary action be taken against Azmin. He said the probe had revealed that Azmin was in debt.

Shafee maintained that the probe did not uncover a “strong element of corruption” to warrant prosecution.

He, however, denied making a judgment call that there was no case against Azmin and ordering that the case be closed.

The daily also reported that Azmin was being investigated for, among others, assets allegedly amassed with his wife, Shamsidar Taharin, including houses and cars totalling almost RM1.5 million; shares valued at hundreds of thousands of ringgit; and almost RM10 million in cash and cheques being deposited and withdrawn from both their accounts as certified by the banks concerned.

His pay as Anwar’s private secretary at the time was RM2,442 a month.

Shafee had also challenged the whistleblower to come forward to assist MACC’s investigations.

On why the investigation paper (IP) was not referred to the Attorney-General’s Chambers, Shafee argued that it was the duty of his subordinate officer to inform the chambers, adding that it was impossible for the agency’s top bosses to monitor all cases and their details.

Azmin pointed out today that in one chapter of a recent book by Shafee, the latter had written that there was no “basis for corruption” in the probe against him.

“Read the Shafee Yahya story; do not read Utusan Malaysia or watch TV3,” he said. “This is a person of authority giving the true facts.”

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