Malaysian official did not take missing gold

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THE MALAYSIAN gold coin affair took a new twist yesterday when Standard Chartered Bank exonerated a Malaysian government minister, and said another person altogether was responsible for the disappearance of the dollars 10,000-worth of precious metal, writes Peter Rodgers.

The move followed a further embarrassment for Anglo-Malaysian relations this week when it emerged that the coin had been handed to the minister and could not be traced.

Abdul Ghani Othman, Youth and Sports Minister, who at the time was serving as deputy finance minister, was quoted yesterday in the Straits Times as confirming he received a dollars 10,000 gold coin from officials of Mocatta, Standard's gold subsidiary, in late 1991. He then returned it to Mocatta.

Standard said the coin was handed to the minister in formal discussions over the effect of a 10 per cent gold import tax. The sample gold coin was to help decide whether it was legal tender or gold bullion, which was relevant to the tax position.

Standard said the minister had returned the coin to Stephen Goh, a consultant to Mocatta based in Kuala Lumpur, who had participated in the tax discussions. The minister asked Mr Goh to return it to Mocatta. Standard said: 'Mr Goh confirmed recently he received the coin and misplaced it. He has now paid us for the coin.'

The coin's absence emerged during a continuing investigation of discrepancies in the expense accounts of individuals in the group.