Malaysia anticorruption body probes ex-finance minister for abuse of power

Daim Zainuddin, an ally of former PM Mahathir Mohamad, has described the investigation as a ‘political witch-hunt’.

Malaysia's former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, shown here in his office, is being investigated for abuse of power [File: Reuters]

Malaysia’s anticorruption agency has said it was investigating Daim Zainuddin, a former finance minister and key ally of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, under the country’s abuse of power and money laundering laws.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed media reports this month that it had seized Ilham Tower, a 60-storey building in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, as part of its investigation into Daim.

Daim, 85, said in a statement on Thursday that he denied all wrongdoing and said he was not informed what offence he had allegedly committed despite repeated queries to the MACC.

He also described the probe against him as a “political witch-hunt” driven by the anticorruption agency and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar, who came to power last year, has promised to weed out high-level corruption. In March this year,  he promised to tackle corruption “without fear or favour“. But he has also faced accusations by some critics of targeting political rivals.

The MACC asserted that it had acted independently according to the law and that it had opened investigations against Daim in February based on information contained in the Pandora Papers – a massive leak of financial records in 2021 which revealed offshore assets held by politicians and public figures worldwide.

In it, Daim, his associates and family members were reported to have held assets worth at least 25 million pounds ($31.82m).

The MACC said it had asked Daim to declare his assets in June and granted five extensions to the former minister to do so – the latest on November 14.

It added that “he has every opportunity to clear his name if the case is brought to the court of law”.

Daim held the finance portfolio twice: between 1984 and 1991, when he was succeeded by Anwar; and from 1999 to 2001 after Anwar was sacked by then-PM Mahathir for alleged corruption and sodomy.

Though retired from active politics, Daim remains an influential figure.

In 2018, when Mahathir came out of retirement and returned as prime minister, he appointed Daim to lead a government advisory council tasked with scrutinising everything from government policies to the management of state-linked firms.

Daim also led talks to renegotiate several deals with China, including the East Coast Rail Link project, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Source: News Agencies