Groups call for Malaysia's anti-graft chief to step aside over share-buying activities

Tan Sri Azam Baki was cleared by MACC's advisory board for acquiring shares of two listed companies in 2015. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM THE STAR/FACEBOOK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The opposition and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Thursday (Jan 6) called for Malaysia's top graft buster to step aside to allow an independent investigation into a huge controversy over his share-buying activities.

The chief commissioner of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), Tan Sri Azam Baki, was on Wednesday cleared by the MACC's advisory board for acquiring shares of two listed companies in 2015.

Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang, chairman of the agency's advisory board said on Wednesday there was neither pecuniary interest nor conflict of interest on the part of Mr Azam when the latter bought the shares of Gets Global and Excel Force MSC. Some media reports said the shares totalled two million.

Mr Abu Zahar said Mr Azam did not buy the shares for himself, but that his younger brother, Mr Nasir Baki, had used the chief commissioner's trading account to buy the shares.

The shares were bought in the open market and have since been transferred to Mr Nasir, the chairman said.

But the opposition and NGOs questioned why Mr Nasir did not buy the shares using his own account.

Responding to the furore, the Securities Commission (SC) in a statement on Thursday said that it will be in touch with Mr Azam and other parties involved, for an explanation.

"The SC will be in touch with the parties involved, including Tan Sri Azam Baki, for an explanation and to verify the statements made, as well as gather any relevant evidence," said the SC.

Opposition MP Lim Lip Eng, a lawyer, pointed to a case in May 2011 when the SC fined a woman RM25,000 (S$8,100) for allowing another person to use her central depository system account.

"If what Azam Baki did was not wrong at all under our existing law, can any person now start using their securities account to trade on behalf of their relatives, friends, and others, whether for a fee or on a voluntary basis?" asked Mr Lim, as quoted by Malaysiakini.

Questions are also being raised by opposition lawmakers over the value of the shares bought, as Mr Azam is a civil servant.

Others are calling for an independent probe to be conducted on the issue, rather than the internal investigation conducted by the MACC board.

The Associations of Islam Defenders (Pembela) said Mr Azam must be investigated by the police and other authorities such as the Parliamentary Special Committee.

"Pembela is of the view that he should resign or at least take leave as the chief commissioner of the MACC during the investigations carried out against him," said the NGO's president Aminuddin Yahaya.

Opposition lawmakers Khoo Poay Tiong and Chan Foong Hin, who are members of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Agencies under the Prime Minister's Department, said they were shocked by Mr Azam's comments that he was answerable only to MACC's oversight panels.

"Why didn't the brother just buy the shares using his own account in the first place? Why is there a need for the brother to buy the shares using Azam's trading account first?" said the two MPs in a joint statement, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.

The National Association of Malaysian Muslim Students (PKPIM) called on Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to establish a Royal Commission of Inquiry.

Several MPs from opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat also urged the Prime Minister to call for a comprehensive probe into Mr Azam.

"The statement by Anti-Corruption advisory board chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang that he was satisfied with Azam's explanation over the allegations did not help to resolve the public's concerns over MACC's transparency," said PKPIM secretary-general Ahmad Firdaus Hadzir in a statement.

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