Why bother to formulate a new law to check fake news when the real stories are already incredible?
‘ There must be better explanations for such incredible reports and the bizarre responses from people in power.’
OVER the past week, the news about Malaysia has been running the range from the outrageous to the absurd.
To use a quirky English phrase, the stories beggar belief. In other words, too surreal to be believed.
With the Government proposing a new law to check the spread of “fake news”, there must be better explanations for such incredible reports and the bizarre responses from people in power.
I am listing three examples. The first is Switzerland’s decision to confiscate the equivalent of RM400mil, purportedly linked to 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), which was seized from Swiss banks last year.
The Swiss lawmakers are set to debate a motion to enable part of the funds to be sent back to Malaysia, but according to recent reports, there were no claimants for the money. For context, the RM400mil is more than this year’s budget for my home state of Melaka and the surplus of RM26.4mil can pay for the new bridge on the alternative coastal road in Klebang.
Next is the 91m super yacht, Equanimity, impounded off Bali last Wednesday.
Indonesian police seized the vessel sought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in response to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) request to enforce a court order.
Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal Abduh said the US$250mil (RM976mil) yacht’s Automated Identification System (AIS) had been switched off in nearby seas before the seizure.
Penang-born businessman Low Taek Jho, who is also known as Jho Low, criticised the DoJ for not proving any offence before acting.
“It is disappointing that, rather than reflecting on the deeply flawed and politically motivated allegations, the DoJ is continuing with its pattern of global overreach – all based on entirely unsupported claims of wrongdoing,” read a statement sent by his unnamed spokesman.
Eyebrows were raised when Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said the Government would not claim the yacht.
But Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak’s peculiar comment that the DoJ had not shown any “tangible proof” of Low’s ownership of the yacht drew ire and scorn.
He said besides allegations in the civil suit, on hold since last August, there was no evidence of Low’s ownership.
As former minister of trade and industry Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz noted, all it takes is a simple search. The “SuperYacthFan” website, which has a directory of the world’s wealthiest yacht owners, states that it belongs to Low and his Hong-Kong-based investment fund, Jynwel Capital.
If Low is innocent, the solution is simple: Just bite the bullet and face the DoJ.
The third curious case involves Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Comm Datuk Seri Wan Ahmad Najmuddin Mohd’s frozen Australian bank account.
Australian police froze the A$320,000 (RM970,490) account after filing a forfeiture application in the New South Wales Supreme Court in March last year.
Strangely, the senior police officer does not want his almost RM1mil back. His reason? High legal costs.
Australian police noted a “flurry of suspicious cash deposits” into the CID director’s account, which had been dormant since it was first opened in 2011.
The account reportedly grew by nearly A$290,000 (RM879,500) in a month in 2016, mostly in deposits below A$10,000 (RM30,330) – the limit for law enforcement agencies to receive possible money-laundering alerts.
The money came in from branches and ATMs around the country, from the tiny towns in Queensland and in Tasmania to the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne, a week after the officer visited Australia.
In response, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said an inquiry found that the account was opened in 2011 to enable the transfer of funds to finance the CID director’s son’s education in Australia.
The IGP said the dormant account was reactivated in 2016 for the officer’s daughter’s master’s degree, adding that Comm Wan Ahmad Najmuddin provided documents to prove the money was from the sale of a RM700,000 house in Shah Alam.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki initially ruled out any further probe as both Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the IGP had exonerated the CID director. However, Azam has since been quoted as saying the MACC had begun investigating the matter following a report lodged by an unidentified whistleblower.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed provided another queer twist to the case by suggesting that Australian authorities were using the media to embarrass Malaysia and by asking if they had an axe to grind.
With more doubts continuing to be raised over the case, Dr Ahmad Zahid said Comm Wan Ahmad could have been “a little naïve” about Australia’s legal system.
We can’t blame Malaysians to be sceptical, given the status of the person in question.
Naïve or not, just how costly can it be to hire a good lawyer in Australia to seek justice for the huge amount of money wrongly confiscated?
There have been such cases before and Malaysians have won, most notably former Selangor mentri besar Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
On May 1998, he was acquitted of currency regulation breaches involving more than A$1.2mil (RM2.9mil then).
Muhammad had pleaded not guilty to knowingly making a false currency report when entering the country on Dec 16, 1996, and then failing to declare currency when leaving six days later.
Besides saying that the ex-teacher’s English was not good, his lawyers argued that he didn’t know the country’s money exchange laws and that the funds were for buying land for himself and his three brothers.
How much he paid the lawyers remains a mystery, though.
Along The Watchtower by M.Veera Pandiyan The Star