Malaysia's anti-graft 'not afraid to investigate anyone'

KUALA LUMPUR - The head of Malaysia's anti-graft body has said his agency is not afraid to investigate anyone, including the Prime Minister's wife Rosmah Mansor, over allegations that she bought a RM24 million (S$8.8 million) diamond ring.

"If we dared to investigate Rosmah, do you think there's anyone we wouldn't dare to investigate?" Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Abu Kassim Mohamed was quoted as saying by Chinese-language newspaper Sin Chew Daily.

Tan Sri Abu Kassim was quoted by the newspaper - as reported by news website Malay Mail Online yesterday - as saying that he called Prime Minister Najib Razak over the alleged purchase. "There was a thorough investigation into the alleged purchase of the ring."

He began an investigation into the case after receiving a complaint, he was quoted as saying.

In July 2011, opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat member Badrul Hisham Shaharin claimed that a diamond ring had been brought into Malaysia and the intended recipient was Datin Seri Rosmah. Datuk Seri Najib then denied that his wife had bought it, calling the allegation "slander".

Madam Rosmah, now 63, said in her 2013 biography that the ring was brought in for a private viewing by the mother of her then future son-in-law, Mr Daniyar Kessikbayev, during preparations for her daughter's engagement to him in 2011. The ring was later returned to the jewellers, she wrote.

Mr Abu Kassim's revelation comes as Mr Najib is under pressure from former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to explain the alleged financial mismanagement at debt-laden state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, as well as his alleged involvement in the 2006 murder of a Mongolian interpreter. Two officers, part of Mr Najib's personal security detail at the time, were found guilty.

Mr Abu Kassim, in an interview with the New Sunday Times published at the weekend, said his agency was aiming for Malaysia to be among the lowest 20 per cent of countries in the graft index of global corruption watchdog Transparency International. He also said the MACC's conviction rate had risen to over 80 per cent from 60 per cent previously.

Malaysia now ranks 50th out of 175 countries on the index, with Singapore at No. 7.