KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It is acceptable for people to keep their money abroad or anywhere else to evade tax although it may not be legal, said veteran ruling party lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah on Tuesday (April 5).
The popular Kelantan prince, who is Malaysia's longest-serving MP, also said it was normal for businessmen and politicians to keep their money abroad to evade tax.
"This has been going on for a long time. Everybody knows of the existence of all these facilities and they keep money abroad in order to be shielded from tax," he told reporters.
"It's not only politicians but anyone who feels he needs to keep money in places that can save them from paying tax, why not?" he said in referring to the Panama Papers, an enormous leak of documents incriminating world leaders and celebrities in offshore shell companies and tax shelters.
The leak from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca involves more than 11.5 million documents, nearly 215,000 companies and 14,153 individuals, according to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The newspaper said it got the information and shared it with other media outlets and the non-profit International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
One of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s sons, Mr Mohd Nazifuddin Mohd Najib, is among those named.
According to the documents, he held directorships in two companies based in the British Virgin Islands, namely Jay Marriot International and PCJ International Venture Limited. However, this does not imply any wrongdoing on his part.
"I'm not saying it's not wrong but if that can help them save money, then they save la," Tengku Razaleigh, who is also known as Ku Li, told reporters on Tuesday.
Asked whether the country had laws to prevent this from everything, he said the country has laws to cover everything.
On whether it is illegal, he said "It's not whether it's legal or not legal, it's whether it's proper.
"Some people do avail themselves of the facilities, so why not?" he said.
However, Tengku Razaleigh stressed that it is necessary for the Government to examine the issue.
"For the sake of transparency and good governance, I think we should find out," he said, adding that the reports by ICIJ may be "a little rushed".
He added that those who break the law will have to face the consequences.
"Nobody is above the law. I am not defending anyone. You break the law, you face the music, and that includes me," Tengku Razaleigh said.
Separately on Tuesday, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz said there was no reason for the Government to act on those named in the Panama Papers unless there is evidence of wrongdoing.
"It's like this, if they have broken any laws of Malaysia, certainly I think that the Malaysian government should investigate but otherwise it's a free country," Nazri told reporters at Parliament lobby.