Accusing Zafrul of corruption, Muhyddin in bigger trouble than Najib

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Muhyiddin probably has lost count of the number of scandals he’s facing.

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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has threatened to sue those who insinuate that he is corrupt. Well, if he is serious about his threats, he should start taking legal action against Anwar Ibrahim because the 10th Prime Minister has suggested on numerous occasions that he was corrupt by awarding lucrative contracts to his son-in-law.

In fact, PM Anwar has repetitively dropped some hints that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) should and would investigate large-scale corruption cases without fear and favour. Obviously, it was a warning to MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki, who was promoted by Muhyiddin in March 2020, not to close one-eye over corruptions involving his former political master.

Azam was previously exposed of owning shares beyond his mean – 1,930,000 shares of Gets Global Berhad (formally known as KBES Berhad) in 2015. He then cooked up a half-baked story that it was his little brother’s fault for using his share trading account to buy millions of shares. Thanks to then-PM Muhyiddin’s interference, the Securities Commission found Azam not guilty.

The MACC Chief may be grateful to Muhyiddin. However, he could only drag his feet for so long. His share trading scandal could re-emerge and he could be sacked – even jailed for corruption. Even if Anwar is too kind to forgive Muhyiddin, UMNO leaders are thirsty for blood after losing dozens of seats in the recent general election to Muhyiddin-led Perikatan Nasional through vote buying.

Insisting again that he did not take a single cent from the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines during his tenure as 8th Prime Minister (March 2020 – August 2021), Muhyiddin said – “I have informed the MACC that I am not guilty, and they seemed satisfied”. Sure, if the anti-corruption agency believes everything a crook says, Malaysia does not need prisons anymore.

In May 2018, the MACC too said former Prime Minister Najib Razak was merely questioned on the investigation of SRC International Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). About four months later – September 2018 – Najib was officially arrested and charged, before found guilty in July 2020 and sent to prison after losing his final appeal in August 2022.

Hilariously, Muhyiddin, whose given name is Mahiaddin, concluded he was innocent because the MACC officer interrogating him said he was not a suspect, but was summoned to merely provide explanations. He appeared proud that the MACC was questioning him about another investigation involving Jana Wibawa, and not about the RM92.5 billion Covid-19 stimulus programme.

If the ex-PM believes he will not be charged just because a low-ranking MACC officer said he was not a suspect at the time he was being grilled, then he is stupider than he looks. Najib, who was smiling after being interrogated for hours in 2018, was also told he was not a suspect. Likewise, Najib was incredibly happy when he was questioned by the MACC about SRC, and not the 1MDB scandal.

In truth, Muhyiddin is extremely panicked, but had to put up a brave face. He could not smile, unlike his former boss Najib, because he is facing multiple scandals. According to the MACC, the president of Bersatu or Malaysian United Indigenous Party has given his statement in the investigations of RM300 million received by his party linked to the Covid-19 Economic Stimulus Package.

Apparently, more than 15 individuals, including Bersatu leaders and contractors, had been interrogated by the anti-graft agency. This came after the MACC raided eight government agencies and nine companies in Dec 2022, leading to the discovery of at least five middlemen of several companies involved in obtaining projects worth between RM50 million and RM500 million through direct negotiations.

Contractors who had been grilled by the anti-graft agency admitted that they agreed to pay a commission of 3% to 5% to secure projects from those middlemen. After it was established that 10 contractors had paid more than RM300 million in kickbacks disguised as donations to Muhyiddin’s party, Bersatu’s accounts were frozen under the MACC Act 2009 and anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing law.

On Jan 5, 2023 night, a 42-year-old man was detained over his role as “middleman” in brokering government projects related to Covid-19 stimulus packages worth RM92.5 billion (US$21 billion) in exchange for bribes. This means up to RM4.5 billion could have been paid to the despicable middlemen on behalf of Muhyiddin.

The 42-year-old suspect – Adam Radlan Adam Muhammad – turned out to be Muhyiddin’s right-hand man. A former chief executive of Maju Assets Sdn Bhd, Adam is also Segambut divisional leader of Muhyiddin’s political party – Bersatu. The best part is Adam is the cousin of Muhyiddin’s son-in-law, Muhamad Adlan Berhan, who in turn was involved in several scandals.

Adlan married Muhyiddin’s daughter, Nabilah, who is a shareholder of Agathistwo Jia Sdn Bhd, a company involved in the scandalous RM1.2 billion NIIS (National Integrated Immigration System) concession. The NIIS was hatched by Muhyiddin (then-Home Minister under the Pakatan Harapan government) after cancelling its predecessor Sistem Kawalan Imigresen Nasional (SKIN).

So, the second scandal involving Muhyiddin is the NIIS, which the MACC has started investigating early this month. The focus is on possible abuse of power in the award of the project. Last week (Feb 10), Iris Corp Bhd disposed its 80% stake in its wholly-owned subsidiary Iris Information Technology Systems (IITS) – the developer of the RM1.2 billion NIIS – for RM70 million cash.

The RM5.7 billion Jana Wibawa is essentially the third scandal involving Muhyiddin. But during his questioning, Muhyiddin pointed his fingers at his self-appointed finance minister Tengku Zafrul. He argued – “Jana Wibawa was a programme by the Ministry of Finance proposed by Zafrul to help Bumiputera contractors during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Strangely though, while the ex-premier said that all the rules of the Jana Wibawa programme were determined by the finance minister in considering the eligibility of applicants, he somehow disagreed with the idea of having his Prime Minister Office (PMO) to process the applications despite “his thumbs up” for the project, which had been approved by his Cabinet.

Was Muhyiddin trying to say that his finance minister had bulldozed a dubious project under his watch, or was he trying to throw Zafrul under the bus now that the MACC is looking into the skeleton in his closet? Going by his twisted logic, does that mean all corrupt ministers can approve their own projects because he did not want to be involved in the process of reviewing or approving?

Even if Muhyiddin was smarter that Najib by creating an excuse to blame the finance minister in the event corruptions are exposed, he still cannot claim plausible deniability (the ability to deny any involvement in illegal or unethical activities) because his Cabinet had approved it and even he had admitted it was an excellent programme.

He talked like a chairman of a company who conveniently blamed his CFO (chief financial officer) for losing money after collectively approving a project’s expense. Muhyiddin also said he was not like other thieves – suggesting that he was cleverer than former PM Najib, who stole billions of dollars when he, who doubled as the finance minister, approved his own scandalous 1MDB mega project.

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It’s worth noting that Tengku Zafrul Aziz is linked to Muhyiddin’s family. Apparently, Zafrul’s younger brother, Tengku Zuhri Tengku Abdul Aziz, is married to Fara Nadia Abd Rahim, whose elder sister Fara Ikma Abd Rahim is married to Muhyiddin’s eldest son Fakhri Yassin. Hence, Muhyiddin had indirect influence over how the national coffers were to be spent.

Born with a silver spoon, Zafrul, thanks to his marriage to the great granddaughter to the fifth Sultan of Selangor, managed to climb up the corporate ladder largely due to his royal title “Tengku”. He was the chief executive of Malaysian banking group CIMB before handpicked and promoted by Muhyiddin as the Minister of Finance in March 2020 after a political coup.

Clearly, Muhyiddin is putting all the blames on Zafrul, believing that the royalty-linked former finance minister is “untouchable”. If Zafrul, who lost in the 15th General Election, but had shamelessly lobbied to be given a post in the Anwar administration, cannot be prosecuted due to his connection, then the RM5.7 billion Jana Wibawa scandals would be swept under the carpet.

But if Zafrul, next to be grilled by the MACC, can prove that Muhyiddin had received bribes from the programme, the disgraced ex-premier could be charged. Heck, Zafrul might become a witness and betray Muhyiddin. Regardless of who will be prosecuted, the people will enjoy the drama. The bet is on Muhyiddin joining Najib in the Kajang Prison Complex.

The Perikatan Nasional chairman probably has lost count of the number of scandals he’s facing. Even if the RM5.7 billion Jana Wibawa doesn’t stick, Muhyiddin has a bigger problem – the ill-gotten money that went directly to Bersatu accounts poorly masked as donations. The MACC has at least 10 suspects (contractors) and more than RM300 million money trails as evidence.

No matter how Bersatu leaders twist and spin, they have to explain how the party, founded in 2016 and was only in power for 17 months (less than two years) under Muhyiddin, could accumulate a jaw-dropping RM300 million in cash. The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) only had RM194 million despite being in power for 61 years (or 76 years since its inception in 1946). – Finance Twitter