Dr M, Azeez Duel over Tabung Haji Misappropriation

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The Dewan Rakyat descended into a fracas this afternoon over clarification involving misappropriation in Tabung Haji (TH).

The brouhaha involved Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim (Umno – Baling) and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (Independent – Langkawi).

While debating on the Motion of Thanks to the Royal Address, Azeez had, among others, said he wanted to explain allegations levelled against him regarding wrongdoings during his tenure as the pilgrimage fund board chairman from 2013 to 2018.

However, Dr Mahathir interjected and said Azeez should tell his side of the story in the court of law instead of in the lower house of Parliament.

Azeez then lashed out at Dr Mahathir for accusing him of robbing TH, saying no charges were made against him during the previous Pakatan Harapan government.

“For Langkawi’s information, not a single charge has been brought against me over Tabung Haji. It’s been two years and there was not a single case. Go check your facts, sir.

“Langkawi used to point at my face and say ‘there he is, the Tabung Haji robber and swindler is there. I was there. But the fact is no charges were filed,” Azeez retorted.

Azeez then challenged Dr Maszlee Malik (Independent – Simpang Renggam) to check on the internet and prove he had been charged with any offence related to Tabung Haji.

An independent review by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2018 had found that Tabung Haji’s liabilities exceeded the value of its assets, which meant that it could not issue any dividends in accordance with the Tabung Haji Act 1995.

However, the previous Tabung Haji management had allegedly hidden the losses it suffered so as to show a surplus, which would allow them to pay out dividends.

Bank Negara had in 2016 also warned about the growing deficit.

Azeez acknowledged that Bank Negara had issued a warning to Tabung Haji but maintained that the pilgrimage fund does not come under Bank Negara’s jurisdiction and does not operate as a bank.

He maintained that the Tabung Haji board has the power to decide on the dividend it wishes to pay out.

Under the Harapan government, Tabung Haji transferred its loss-making ventures to the Minister of Finance Incorporated to restore its surplus and gain the ability to pay out dividends.

Azeez, at the time, branded the asset transfer as “selling” Tabung Haji.

Azeez is facing three counts of bribery involving RM5.2 million linked to road projects in Perak and Kedah, and nine counts of money laundering involving nearly RM140 million, while his brother is charged with abetting him.

The corruption charges were framed under Section 16(a)(A) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, while the money laundering charges were made under Section 4(1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

During the brawl, Azeez also lambasted Dr Mahathir for complaining in the latter’s speech earlier that the current government was persecuting opposition members.

“You (Dr Mahathir) did the same to Barisan Nasional MPs when we were in the opposition.

“I was locked up for 11 nights, my mother’s account was frozen, my home was raided, my children’s accounts are still frozen. They (PH government) are only allowed to do so for one year but it’s been two years.

“This is the cartoon government under Langkawi, the double standards,” Azeez said.

Maszlee later interjected, stating that he wanted to take on Azeez’s earlier challenge but when Azeez gave way to him to speak, Maszlee said he wanted to give his platform to Dr Mahathir.

Azeez, however, refused to let Dr Mahathir to take over from Maszlee.

“Just now Baling challenged me to interject. I want to give my right (to speak) to Langkawi. If you are a man, then you should face Langkawi,” Maszlee said.

Azeez insisted he would not give way, saying that the Dewan Rakyat session is not a “pass the baton” type of platform and said they were wasting his time.

He then concluded his speech by calling for a royal commission of inquiry into Tabung Haji.

Later, when Maria Chin Abdullah (PKR-Petaling Jaya) debated the royal address, she also offered to give way for Dr Mahathir to speak so that he could respond to Azeez.

The former prime minister then said that if Azeez believed the PH government had committed wrongdoings with regard to Tabung Haji, he should lodge a police report.

“If we only explain in the Dewan, the impact is limited as nothing can be done.

“Even listening is difficult, as he speaks so loudly that my ear is numb,” Mahathir chided.