Six board members of Malaysia's anti-graft body distance themselves from chairman

The board's chairman Abu Zahar Ujang had made controversial comments about the agency's chief commissioner. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Six board members of Malaysia's anti-graft agency on Saturday (Jan 8) distanced themselves from controversial comments made by the board's chairman Abu Zahar Ujang over the agency's chief commissioner.

The board members said they were not satisfied with the explanation over a stock-trading scandal involving Tan Sri Azam Baki of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, although board chairman, Tan Sri Abu Zahar, had said the opposite in a news conference on Wednesday (Jan 5).

he MACC is Malaysia's main anti-corruption body and its chief commissioner, Mr Azam, the country's top graft-buster.

"Abu Zahar said that the board was satisfied with the explanation given by Azam. He further said there was no crime committed or conflict of interest in the matter.

"We categorically wish to state that the board members at that meeting or at any time thereafter did not express such opinion," the six members said in a statement.

The statement added: "We also wish to state that these comments were entirely Abu Zahar's personal view."

The six members of the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB) are Tan Sri Ismail Omar, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, Datuk Hamzah Kassim, Datuk David Chua Kok Te and Datuk Mohammad Agus Yusoff.

Mr Abu Zahar is the seventh member of ACAB.

Wading into the controversy for the first time on Saturday, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said investigators should be given space to conduct proper inquiries.

"I am always informed and keep tabs on issues related to MACC. Action has been taken and the impression given that the government is keeping quiet is wrong. MACC is an independent commission with its own procedure to handle such matters," Datuk Seri Ismail said.

"Let's wait for the investigation to be completed. We cannot jump to conclusions that Azam is guilty. We have to be fair to all and only take action after the investigation is completed,” he told the media after attending an event in Sabah..

Malaysia’s de facto Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar on Saturday said that  stock market regulator, the Securities Commission, and the police are investigating the affair.

He hoped “everyone will stay calm as we are trying our best to resolve it in the best possible manner”.

The controversy erupted several weeks ago after it emerged that MACC chief Azam had bought securities in two listed companies around 2015.

Mr Azam was on Wednesday cleared by Mr Abu Zahar who heads the advisory board, who said the conclusion was reached after a lengthy Nov 24 meeting with the top graft-buster.

The ACAB chairman said the securities were actually bought on behalf of Nasir Baki, Mr Azam's brother, and these had been transferred to Mr Nasir.

Mr Abu Zahar also told the media there was neither pecuniary interest nor conflict of interest on the part of Mr Azam when the latter bought into Gets Global and Excel Force MSC.

Mr Azam held 1,930,000 shares of Gets Global in 2015 and 2,156,000 warrants of Excel Force MSC in 2016.

The shares and warrants were valued at close to RM1 million (S$323,560), and, in holding them, Mr Azam breached rules prohibiting public officials from owning more than RM100,000 of any company.

Opposition politicians and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Thursday (Jan 6) called for Mr Azam to step aside to allow an independent investigation.

Questions were also raised on why Mr Nasir did not use his own trading account to buy the shares, and the possibility of a breach of securities regulation when shares were bought and sold using the account of someone else.

The six ACAB members in their statement said there was a discussion among board members on how to proceed with Mr Azam's case, with several proposals given.

Among these were for the issue to be brought to an independent committee, a Parliamentary Special Committee on Corruption, or the MACC's complaints panel, the statement said.

"However, our views and proposals were not raised at Abu Zahar's press conference. The ACAB has no investigation power as it is established as an advisory board.

"We need to provide this clarification in order to safeguard the integrity of the board and the institution," the statement from the six ACAB members said.

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