Cabinet ministers, judges and members of the royalty were the anonymous bidders who won sought-after "BMW" number plates from the Road Transport Department (RTD), which said it was normal procedure to blank out their names to avoid negative public perception.
RTD director-general Datuk Ismail Ahmad denied that the department had given five exclusive car registration number plates to “Anggota Pentadbiran Kerajaan” (government administration personnel) for free.
He told The Malaysian Insider that the successful anonymous bidders did pay for the registration plates BMW 1, BMW 2, BMW 7, BMW 9 and BMW 10 but he could not give the total amount the department collected from these five number plates.
“They made bids for the numbers and they got it. We withheld their names and the figures to avoid negative public perception,” Ismail said, adding that they were cabinet ministers, judges and royalty.
He said it was also standard operating procedure to keep the names a secret and not an issue of transparency.
“This is what we have practised. It is not about transparency. It is our SOP and we have no bad intention in keeping this information a secret.
"We want to avoid speculation and doubts. As long as one has the money and used the proper channel to get the numbers, they can have it, whoever they are,” said Ismail.
He also said the SOP was to never disclose the names of bidders who were members of the royalty, or an immediate or close relative of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
The five anonymous bidders came to light recently when anti-crime activist R. Sri Sanjeevan was found to have paid almost RM340,000 for the number plates BMW 8 and BMW 11.
The MyWatch chairman was listed along with other successful bidders for the numbers 1 to 12 with the BMW prefix, for cars registered with the Selangor RTD.
In the same list were the five number plates won by government administration personnel, whose real names, identity card numbers and amount paid were not listed.
This raised speculation on social media, where the list was circulated, that government personnel had obtained the car number plates for free.
Ismail said only the King was entitled to more than one free car number plate but it would be up to a certain quota.
As for the ministers, Ismail said, they were only awarded one free car registration number.
“If they want more, they have to pay because their privilege only allows them to have one free car registration number.
"The only individual who gets to have more than one free car number is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and even then there is a quota," Ismail said.
“The total value for hot numbers like these can be triple, or even quadruple, the amount we obtain from the sale of normal car registration number plates. That is all I can say.
"So if the normal numbers were selling at RM1 million, for this type of number plates, it can go up to between RM3 million and RM4 million,” said Ismail.
The BMW number plates were opened for public tender from August 14 to August 28 at all RTD offices.
Badminton icon Datuk Lee Chong Wei was among those whose bids were successful, where he secured the BMW 6 registration for RM97,777 while Tengku Ahmad Shah secured BMW 3 for RM132,000.
The BMW 5 number plate was secured by Tengku Sulaiman Shah for RM188,100.
But it was Sanjeevan, whose anti-crime activities have led him to make exposes on the police force, who got flak for the exorbitant sum spent on number plates and had to defend himself.
Using the Twitter handle @SanjeevanSS, he replied to a user with the handle @ibdil, saying: "Think before u talk about others – yes I bought with my own money so u have problem? But u... Haha I reserve my comments."
@SanjeevanSS also said on twitter: "I'm a good citizen because I contributed my halal earnings to govt but what about those people who taking it for free? Lost of revenue right."
Sanjeevan survived a shot in the chest in July last year from a motorcycle pillion rider who drew up beside the BMW he was driving in Bahau, Negri Sembilan, a few days after he had made allegations of corruption in the police force. – October 7, 2014.