MACC chief says no selective prosecution in Pandora Papers probe

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 30 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has said that it does not practise selective prosecution in its probe of the leaked information from the Pandora Papers, but is instead free to investigate anyone suspected of abuse of power and misappropriation of money.

Commenting on the Pandora Papers, MACC chief Tan Sri Azam Baki said the anti-graft body focuses on politically exposed persons who had power and position at the time of the alleged wrongdoing and who are suspected of having abused their power.

“The MACC is free to investigate as long as there is reason to believe that they have the position and power and are suspected of misappropriation and abuse of power. It does not matter who.

“The MACC does not practice selective prosecution as we are free to investigate without any interference or influence from others,” he was quoted telling news portal Malaysiakini.

In the same news report, Azam said MACC could only launch investigations based on facts and evidence, in line with standard operating procedures and laws.

Malaysiakini said it was not given an answer on how many individuals are being investigated by the MACC over the Pandora Papers.

The news portal reported Azam as saying that MACC is still carrying out investigations over the Pandora Papers, and said that the matter could also be under the jurisdiction of other bodies.

“Supposed a businessperson’s name is in the Pandora Papers, he may not have the power and position to abuse his power... so it may not be something under MACC's purview. Other agencies like the (Inland Revenue Board) can investigate it for tax evasion,” he was quoted saying.

He said MACC is not the only agency investigating the Pandora Papers, and that the police, Inland Revenue Board and the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NFCC) are also investigating the matter.

Azam was responding to political economist Edmund Terence Gomez, who had on March 25 questioned why the MACC was not probing government leaders — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz and Selayang MP William Leong — over the Pandora Papers.

After the release of the Pandora Papers in October 2021, Ahmad Zahid had denied evading taxes and explained he was CEO of a now-defunct company abroad that had to reinvest its profits there.

In October 2021, Tengku Zafrul said he had by June 2010 relinquished his roles in Kenanga Group whose associated companies and subsidiaries included an offshore firm linked to the Pandora Papers.

Leong had in October 2021 said that he had placed his funds in offshore centres as he felt it was safer than investing in Malaysia in the 1990s and said these are funds after he had paid taxes.

Other Malaysian politicians have also been named in the Pandora Papers.

The Pandora Papers — an investigation report involving some 600 journalists from media including The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian — was released in October 2021, and is based on document leaks from 14 offshore service providers worldwide to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

These service providers — including law firms, wealth management advisors and corporate formation agencies — “set up and manage shell companies and trusts in tax havens”, the ICIJ said.

The ICIJ has however also said that it should not be assumed that all who were named in the Pandora Papers are involved in tax avoidance or tax evasion, as there are many legitimate reasons to create a company in an offshore jurisdiction and that many declare such offshore companies to their tax authorities when that is required.