Pandora Papers: Put ethics above the amassing of wealth in secret accounts

To state that the laws permit such secretive and hidden wealth is not good enough

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Why do these individuals need to hoard billions of ringgit in offshore banks?

Patriot registers its grave concern over the Minister of Finance’s recent statement in Parliament over the opening of offshore banking accounts.

This demands a thorough investigation into the allegations that have surfaced with the publishing of the Pandora Papers, in which several Malaysian VIP figures are implicated.

Tengku Zafrul Aziz raises more than eyebrows over his declaration that there is nothing wrong for individuals to hold secret accounts outside our shores. Given that he is also one of the alleged individuals reported to be storing his wealth in offshore accounts, there is a serious element of conflict of interest here.

As an illustrious personality in the banking circuit prior to his appointment as the finance minister by the deposed Prime Minister Mahiaddin Yasin, Tengku Zafrul would have been the best person to give a more ethically reassuring response to the expose in the Pandora Papers.

As someone who had silver-spoon opportunities to start his academic life, pursuing his A-level studies overseas and completing a string of qualifications in the UK and Beijing, Tengku Zafrul could have been more sensitive to the public perception over the breaking news on the Pandora Papers, which governments around the world have summoned for immediate investigations.

As someone who had bagged a string of prestigious business and leadership awards, the finance minister could have unequivocally placed ethics above and over the right to amass hidden wealth.

In his response to questions in Parliament over the Pandora Papers, the finance minister did confirm that, while existing laws in Malaysia allow for anyone to open up offshore accounts, one must also abide by the fair business practice of customer due diligence, given our existing Anti-Money Laundering Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001. But his ‘green lighting’ of such operatives without making a stand on the Pandora Papers is alarming.

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For the man charged with the guarding of the nation’s wealth and purse strings to have his name implicated in the expose raises questions. His statement in Parliament is being widely perceived as protecting the seemingly dubious and secretive offshore account holders.

Has he dumped the fact of how, despite the financial sector being regulated by a number of legislations, we are still trapped in the world’s biggest case of kleptocracy, which has robbed the people of this nation of even better livelihoods?

What assurance is there that all those personalities allegedly implicated in the Pandora Papers are saintly cases of exemplary financial successes who we should celebrate with accolades?

Patriot demands transparent, independent and wholesome accountability from the current government. The public cannot be pushed into a corner to accept statements by those who themselves have yet to clear their names in response to the Pandora Papers and the ongoing investigations here – if any.

Patriot takes particular objection to Tengku Zafrul’s statement because he has been tasked to assist the people and industry in the implementation of the Prihatin Rakyat (care for the people) economic stimulus package in the prevailing Covid pandemic economic battles.

The ethical parameter demands that the people have a right to know why wealth earned and amassed in this country should not be kept to work within our shores for the betterment of our nation instead of being hidden away in secret accounts elsewhere.

To state that the laws permit such secretive and hidden wealth is not good enough. We demand transparent investigations with speed. If our national response to the Pandora Papers goes the same way as the 1MDB roulette, then even the public’s trust in the “Malaysian family” mantra of the current prime minister is heading for another shipwreck.

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As patriotic citizens who champion national harmony, Patriot members and our associates will defend our beloved nation against anyone who steals from the people.

Tengku Zafrul owes the public an immediate explanation to reinstate public trust. 

Retired Brigadier General Dato’ Mohd Arshad Raji is president of the National Patriots Association (Patriot)

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