Probe Mahathir, Anwar for forex losses: Royal inquiry

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) and ex-finance minister Anwar Ibrahim are now leaders of political parties within Malaysia's opposition pact.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (left) and ex-finance minister Anwar Ibrahim are now leaders of political parties within Malaysia's opposition pact.PHOTOS: REUTERS

It recommends that ex-PM, finance chief be probed for CBT offences in the 1990s

An inquiry into foreign exchange losses at Malaysia's central bank in the 1990s yesterday recommended that former premier Mahathir Mohamad and jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim be investigated for criminal breach of trust offences.

The findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) were tabled in Parliament but not debated.

The commission found that Tun Dr Mahathir, prime minister from 1981 to 2003, and Anwar, who was finance minister from 1991 to 1998, were involved in Bank Negara Malaysia's (BNM) foreign exchange trading losses of RM31.5 billion.

"The commission is of the view that from the facts and circumstances presented to the enquiry, there is a basis to recommend that the (Royal Malaysian Police) carry out a formal investigation into possible offences of criminal breach of trust (CBT) and/or cheating that may have been committed by officers of BNM, BNM's board, the (Finance Ministry), Auditor-General's Department, the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister in carrying out speculative forex dealings and concealing the forex losses from the Cabinet and Parliament," the report said.

The commission suggested that Dr Mahathir may possess more information than he previously claimed to know, despite having testified as a witness at the inquiry.

"The conclusion that he could have been aware of the actual losses is not without merit... Despite his denials, the commission is of the opinion that a thorough investigation should be carried out to determine the extent of (Dr Mahathir's) involvement and liability on the matter," it said.

Dr Mahathir previously told the inquiry he did not have direct knowledge of the BNM's trading activities or the losses incurred.

The commission stated that it could not avoid "the glaring fact that (Anwar) as the finance minister was responsible for misleading (deceiving) the Cabinet and Parliament on the actual forex losses faced by BNM".

RCI secretary Yusof Ismail lodged a police report at the Putrajaya police headquarters yesterday afternoon based on the commission's findings. He said no names were mentioned in the police report as the details were contained in the RCI findings which were also made available to the police.

"The police will hand over their report to the Attorney-General's chambers for further action," he said.

Both Dr Mahathir and Anwar are leaders of political parties within the opposition pact Pakatan Harapan. Opposition leaders yesterday branded the findings as "politically motivated", and demanded that the report be debated in Parliament.

During the RCI's eight-day hearing in August and September, a total of 25 witnesses, including Dr Mahathir, Anwar and former finance minister Daim Zainuddin testified, with 42 documents submitted during the proceedings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2017, with the headline 'Probe Mahathir, Anwar for forex losses: Royal inquiry'. Print Edition | Subscribe