Malaysia charges former minister for not declaring assets, as graft probe targets allies of ex-PM

Malaysia charged a former minister on Monday with failing to declare assets

Eileen Ng
Monday 29 January 2024 08:04 GMT

Malaysia charged a former minister on Monday with failing to declare assets, the latest step in a corruption probe that’s targeting several people connected to a former prime minister.

Former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin, who left office more than 20 years ago, is a key ally of ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed. Both argue that the probe is politically motivated and that prosecutors have ignored potential corruption among allies of the current government.

A frail Daim, 85, who was just discharged from hospital, turned up in court in a wheelchair. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to declare 71 assets ranging from luxury cars to a raft of companies, properties and land. He faces up to five years in jail and a fine if found guilty.

After his court hearing, Daim called Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim “a wolf in sheep’s clothing who cried reforms” but instead abused government institutions to pursue his political foes.

He pointed to the case of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who was also faced trial for corruption until prosecutors dropped 47 graft charges against him last year.

“I am not too bothered about my fate now, Let Anwar throw everything at me. But I fear for the fate of my country,” Daim said.

Last week, Daim’s wife also pleaded not guilty to a similar charge. Daim, one of the country’s wealthiest tycoons, insists his offshore assets were the result of legitimate business activities and investments.

Daim served as Finance Minister from 1984-1989 and again from 1999-2001 under Mahathir.

He and Mahathir’s eldest son, Mirzan Mahathir, were among several Malaysians revealed to hold millions offshore in the Pandora Papers, a major document leak that revealed offshore accounts held by politicians and billionaires around the world.

The anti-graft agency has asked both Mirzan and his brother Mokhzani to declare their assets.

Mahathir was Malaysia’s longest serving-leader, holding office for 22 years before he stepped down in 2003, and again from 2018-2020. He now supports the opposition Malay-Islamic alliance. Mahathir, 98, has said he believes Anwar is fishing for evidence to implicate him.

The two men have a long history that has shaped Malaysian politics. Anwar was Mahathir’s designated successor in the 1990s before they fell out amid the Asian financial crisis. Anwar was later jailed for corruption and sodomy, charges he said were concocted to kill his political career.

The pair joined hands for the 2018 general elections to oust the long-ruling coalition, while Anwar was in jail on a second sodomy charge. He was pardoned by the king shortly after their victory. Mahathir became premier for the second time in a deal that called for him later to hand over power to Anwar, but their alliance collapsed amid infighting.

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