Azmin denies taking family along on trade mission to Europe

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Minister of International Trade and Industry (Miti) Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali today denied that he was accompanied by his family while on a trade mission to Europe in October.

During his ministerial winding-up speech, several members from Pakatan Harapan (PH) led by Jelutong MP, RSN Rayer, had asked if Azmin had brought his family along for the official trip and if this had been paid for by the ministry, and if they had travelled first-class.

Speaker Tan Sri Azhar Azizan Harun, however, disallowed Rayer from posing questions on the matter, saying that the subject was not related to Budget 2022.

This prompted dissent from several of Rayer’s PH colleagues who justified his query as being an issue related to the national Budget.

“I merely sought clarification on the delegation’s trip to London. Minister, it was even reported in the news. Is it true that you brought your family along and did the ministry pay?” Rayer asked.

Bangi MP and former deputy minister of Miti, Ong Kian Ming, then stood up and explained the rationale for the question to Azhar, after which the latter left the reply at Azmin’s discretion.

“Every ministry has a budget for overseas trips and so do their missions. So, what Jelutong asked is whether the minister booked first-class tickets, and the price, for COP26 (2021 Climate Change Conference). I know that London to Singapore, and back again to Malaysia, the price is indeed high. So give the minister a chance to answer,” Ong said.

Azmin later told the Dewan Rakyat that he would take Rayer’s question, before denying that his family had been with him.

“All expenditure for Miti’s trade mission complied with the rules and financial procedures. This is because, before a trade mission is approved, it must be tabled in Cabinet and everything — the list of delegation members, allocation amount, expenditures, destination — all these were detailed and approved by the Cabinet, according to the rules and financial requirements. I deny Jelutong’s accusation,” Azmin said.

Bernama

Azmin left for his trade mission in October, scheduled between October 13 and 21, which also covered France and the United Kingdom

Bernama reported that the senior minister was accompanied by senior Miti officials, which aimed to demonstrate the Malaysian government’s business-friendly policies and capabilities in strategic areas, such as sustainability, high-end manufacturing and Industry 4.0.

It was reported last month that social media was abuzz with a viral meme alleging Amin had spent £37,023 (RM207,712) at an upscale restaurant in London.

The meme showed a picture of Nusr-Et Steakhouse in London, along with a picture of Azmin with a receipt transposed over it.

The picture was lifted from an article published on October 16 in British daily The Independent, titled Customers’ shock over £37,000 bill at Salt Bae’s new restaurant has people divided.”

Turkish chef Nusret Gökçe, also known as Salt Bae, gained popularity in 2017 when a picture of him sprinkling salt on meat became an Internet meme.

Azmin’s officers have denied the story and said it was an attempt to smear his image.

In July, Azmin was again featured when a photograph of him and a tour guide in Turkey appeared on social media.

The photograph, posted by Turkish travel account @Turkishlocalguides was captioned “It was a pleasure to guide Mr Muhammed Azmin Ali (Senior Minister of Malaysia). He was willing and patient to listen to stories of Hagia Sophia”.

Netizens, however, shared screenshots of what they claimed to be the original caption which implied Azmin was there with his family.

The original caption, according to social media users, read: “It was a pleasure to guide Muhammed Azmin Ali (Senior Minister of Malaysia) and his family….”

That led to criticism against Azmin for purportedly going on holiday despite Covid-19 clusters erupting in many Malaysian factories, especially in Selangor.