Terengganu PKR chief Azan Ismail has proposed that the government sets up a special task force on the Pandora Papers with the objective of investigating the amount of tax revenue loss due to Malaysian offshore holdings, and to recover those losses.
He said the task force should be made up of the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), the police Commercial Crime Investigations Department (CCID) and representatives of the Finance Ministry.
"Pandora Papers is larger than 1MDB, but until now there is no discussion (by the authorities to investigate). If we treated 1MDB as a national issue, then the Pandora Papers should be more serious," Azan (above) told Malaysiakini.
Following the special task force's investigations, the government can move to form a Royal Commission of Inquiry that can produce a White Paper, which can then be tabled and debated in Parliament, he said.
This could boost investor confidence and the Ismail Sabri Yaakob government can show it is serious in the matter, unlike previous administrations, Azan said.
The Pandora Papers refers to more than 11 million documents from 14 service providers who assist individuals and companies to set up entities in tax havens.
The data dump was made to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, who shared access to some 600 journalists globally, including at Malaysiakini.
Among prominent Malaysians named in the Pandora Papers were former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, current Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PKR's Selayang MP William Leong.
All individuals said their dealings with offshore entities, including owning or sitting on the boards of these companies, were legitimate and that due taxes had been paid for any assets and earnings related to the offshore companies.
Not for punitive objectives
However, Azan said this cannot be taken at face value and the government should show it is serious about the matter by checking if there are taxes still owed, albeit not for punitive objectives.
"This is not to punish or arrest (those found in the Pandora Papers). On the first level is to look if there have been any omissions in terms of taxes due, and then we can try to collect the amount owed.
"We can offer payment of taxes instead of penalties for those who cooperate to pay any outstanding taxes. It's nothing to do with finding criminal elements," he said.
There have been various unfulfilled promises for White Papers on issues of leakages before, Azan added, including on the BMF issue some four decades ago, which involved RM1.6 billion.
Curtail wild speculation
The Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration had set up a task force headed by then finance minister II Nor Mohamed Yaakob on the issue of RM5 billion underground illicit funds, but that too never culminated as a White Paper submitted to Parliament.
Azan said by announcing a special task force, followed by an RCI and a parliamentary debate of the White Paper, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob can curtail any wild speculation on the Pandora Papers and show his government's commitment in addressing the issue of loss of government revenue and capital flight.
Earlier, when asked by DAP president Lim Guan Eng in Parliament how the government intends to recover any possible loss of revenue from assets held overseas, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul sidestepped the question and said Malaysians are free to set up offshore entities and park funds with legitimate banks overseas.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's motion to debate the Pandora Papers in the Dewan Rakyat has also been rejected by Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun, who proposed instead that the matter be reviewed at a parliamentary committee level.