Politicians among 1,500 who own offshore companies


Politicians among 1,500 who own offshore companies – Malaysiakini

EXCLUSIVE: Top Malaysian politicians, their family members and well-heeled associates are among those owning secretive offshore companies in Singapore and the British Virgin Islands, according to an explosive cache of leaked documents.

They include former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s son Mirzan, Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Minister Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin and Michael Chia, the alleged ‘bagman’ for Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman.

The files, which were obtained by Washington-based International Confederation of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and examined by Malaysiakini,show more than 1,500 Malaysians owning offshore companies in Singapore – dubbed as the new Switzerland – as well as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), an international tax haven.

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The ICIJ list comprises a curious mix of Forbes-listed tycoons, parliamentarians, retired politicians, civil servants and their spouses, members of royal families, famous and infamous businesspeople, underworld kingpins and even former beauty queens.

While some of the offshore companies carry out legitimate transactions, others are likely to be part of the RM871.4 billion estimated by Washington-based financial watchdog Global Financial Integrity (GFI) to have been lost through illicit outflows over a 10-year period.

In 2010 alone, GFI reported that close to RM200 billion of dirty money was siphoned out of Malaysia, putting the country second only to Asian economic powerhouse China in global capital flight.

The leaked ICIJ files provide secret records of offshore holdings of people and companies in more than 170 countries and territories.

“The hoard of documents represents the biggest stockpile of inside information about the offshore system ever obtained by a media organisation. The total size of the files, measured in gigabytes, is more than 160 times larger than the leak of US State Department documents by Wikileaks in 2010,” says ICIJ.

However, despite the extensive data, this is not the complete list of all off-shore companies around the world. Indeed, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

Nevertheless, it allows members of the public, for the very first time, to sneak a peak into the secretive world of anonymous wealth.

Raja Nong Chik

According to the leaked documents, Raja Nong Chik, who is Lembah Pantai UMNO chief, is a prominent shareholder and director of RZA International Corporation, a British Virgin Islands entity incorporated on Aug 21, 2007, through Singapore.

The company is a mirror of Malaysian entity Kumpulan RZA Sdn Bhd, a 1997-founded company dealing in real estate and equities investment.

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Raja Nong Chik set up the offshore entity with his father, Raja Zainal Abidin Raja Tachik, a number of his sisters and brothers as well as other family members. Most of them are also shareholders and directors of Kumpulan RZA Sdn Bhd.

Prior to his senatorship, Raja Nong Chik was a corporate figure who founded and managed an engineering firm for 20 years.

Contacted by Malaysiakini, the minister confirmed that RZA International was set up by his father, who will turn 96 this year, “for the purpose of holding legitimate offshore investments for the family”.

However, the minister did not elaborate on the offshore investments made by his family through the company. He added that RZA International was de-registered in 2009.

“The company was not used to obscure activities of Kumpulan RZA Sdn Bhd, and neither was it used to circumvent taxes or hide transactions overseas,” Raja Nong Chik said in an email to Malaysiakini.

Mirzan Mahathir

Mirzan Mahathir, the eldest son of Mahathir, is also among those the ICIJ list as director and shareholder of three off-shore companies.

Mirzan’s major commercial vehicle in Malaysia is Crescent Capital Sdn Bhd, an investment holding and independent strategic and financial advisory firm. He is the company’s chairperson and chief executive officer.

mirzan mahathir

A Forbes-listed entrepreneur, Mirzan holds a non-executive director position in Philippines-based San Miguel group, which has raised eyebrows in Muslim-majority Malaysia, as beer brewery is a core businesses of San Miguel.

One of Mirzan’s offshore entities is called Crescent Energy Ltd, a Labuan offshore company incorporated on Dec 16, 2003, originally named Mainline Ltd and with an authorised share capital of US$12,000 (RM37,000).

Mirzan became a director and main shareholder six days later and the company was renamed Crescent Energy on May 16, 2008.

Another Labuan offshore company, Utara Capital Ltd, in which Mirzan is named as sole shareholder and director, was incorporated on Aug 19, 1997, with an authorised share capital of US$15,000.

The third company, Al Sadd Investments Pte Ltd. was also a Labuan offshore company. It was established on May 14, 2009, with an authorised share capital of US$12,000. Mirzan is listed as the sole shareholder and director of Al Sadd Investments.

Malaysiakini has approached Mirzan’s office for his comments on these offshore companies, but his aide said he was unable to respond on the matter as he was out of town.

Michael Chia

Another prominent personality on the list is Chia Tien Foh, who is better known as Michael Chia – the shadowy business tycoon allegedly linked to Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman.

Chia, too, has three offshore companies in which he is listed as either as director or shareholder. One of them was CTF International Ltd , with ‘CTF’ seen as the initials of Chia’s full name. It was incorporated on April 18, 2007, in the British Virgin Islands.

CTF International gained notoriety when it was named by whistleblower website Sarawak Report of being a conduit in channelling millions of ringgit to a Hong Kong account allegedly linked to Musa.

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However, Musa (left), has denied any business ties with Chia (right).

CTF was de-registered in 2008. The other two offshore companies owned by Chia are Ravenswood Development Ltd and Ark Capital Technologies Ltd.

In addition, Chia’s wife Yap Loo Mien and another woman, who is alleged to be his mistress, Yap Siaw Lin, also appear on the list as key shareholders in three separate British Virgin Islands entities.

Loo Mien owned two companies – Perfect Minds Incorporated and StarWater Corporation – while Siaw Lin owned Splendor Success Worldwide Ltd.

Malaysiakini contacted Chia through the address stated in his company registration documents for comments, but there has been no response.

Iron-clad secrecy

According to a former officer with of the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), crooked Malaysians parked their money offshore to enjoy either significantly lower or even no taxes, and where the income is illegal, they are protected by a wall of secrecy.

Such ploys, said the officer who was a tax investigator, may not always succeed as Malaysia has a double taxation agreement, with close to 80 countries, that provides for the exchange of information on investigations involving the prevention or detection of tax evasion or fraud.

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This includes Singapore, where some of the offshore companies are based.

The island republic has been labelled by Sarawak corporate lawyer Alvin Chong (right) as the “new Switzerland” in a recent video clandestinely filmed by London-based NGO Global Witness.

The retired officer, who worked with the IRB for more than 20 years, added that while the setting up of offshore companies was, in itself not illegal, such companies could be used to evade taxes.

“For example, a payment can be made for a seemingly legitimate service, like consultancy for the procurement of submarines, but it is paid to a company set up overseas, where the recipient pays a lower tax.

“Singapore and Hong Kong, with corporate tax rates of about 17 percent compared with Malaysia’s 25 percent, are popular parking lots,” he said, speaking on condition he not be named.

Tax evasion

One of the methods of tax evasion was explained by Chong in the Global Witness video – on how to avoid paying capital gains tax relating to Sarawak’s doggy land deals.

According to the former tax officer, offshore companies often include many layers of ownership through nominees to camouflage and “water down the link” to the original owner.

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As such, he said the act of setting up offshore companies in tax havens often raises red flags.

“Someone can say that their company is set up at the British Virgin Islands, for example, but the money they use to set up the BVI company, or more importantly, the operations channeled through these tax havens could raise suspicion as being not genuine and invite an IRB probe,” he said.

“If the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission), IRB or the police want information from their Singapore counterparts, for example, the latter are obliged to give, at least under the Malaysia-Singapore DTA (double taxation agreement),” he said.

But most tax havens are not signatories to DTA agreements and they operate outside international law.

Moreover, it is also up to the Malaysian authorities to decide whether to pursue the case and seek the necessary information from their counterparts abroad.


Aidila Razak, Kuek Ser Kuang Keng, Wong Teck Chi and Steven Gan contributed to this report.

 

MACC: What more evidence you need ?


Video expose implicates Sarawak CM, kin in alleged land graft

A new video implicates Taib and his family in shady land deals.KUALA LUMPUR, March 19 — An international activist organisation provided today video proof of shady land deals in Sarawak that implicates the state’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and his family, with parts of the clip aired on the Al-Jazeera news channel at 10am.

In a covert investigation, Global Witness (GW) captured on video dealings with Taib’s cousins and several other intermediaries to acquire thousands of hectares of forest land that the London-based activist said revealed the systematic corruption and illegality that lay at the heart of Malaysia’s biggest state.

“This film proves for the first time what has long been suspected — that the small elite around Chief Minister Taib are systematically abusing the region’s people and natural resources to line their own pockets,” said Tom Picken, forest team leader at Global Witness, in a statement released today.

“It shows exactly how they do it and it shows the utter contempt they hold for Malaysia’s laws, people and environment.”

In a 16-minute video clip, GW investigators, who posed as foreign investors, recorded snippets of their conversation with Taib’s cousins and lawyers, to purchase the land for hefty profit and which the environmental campaigner said would displace thousands of the indigenous people living there.

A recorded conversion with sisters Fatimah Abdul Rahman and Norlia Abdul Rahman — who are the daughters of the state’s former Chief Minister Tun Abdul Rahman Ya’akub and first cousins with the incumbent CM — provided a very telling glimpse into the means of how business is conducted in Sarawak to enrich the ruling elite.

Fatimah: Ample Agro belongs to my family, but my sisters, the four elder ones are in the company. The Land and Survey Department, they are the ones who issue this licence… Of course it’s from the CM’s directive but I can speak to the CM very easily.

GW: Can you?

Fatimah: Yes.

GW: And you think he’ll agree?

Fatimah: Yeah, he was the one who gave us the land. He’s my cousin [laughs]. His mother and my father are sisters and brothers, siblings. He’s my cousin so it’s quite easy.

The sisters said they were owners of 5,000 hectares of land given to them for a nominal sum by Taib, and which they were looking to sell under their company, Ample Agro, which they admitted to be a shell company.

GW: You’re proposing basically, Ample Agro, which is your company OK, sell your company, rather than the land. And your company owns the land?

Norlia: Yes… I bought that company as a shell company for this land.

Their lawyer, Alvin Chong, was also recorded in the video telling the GW “investors” how to evade real property gains taxes.

Another lawyer, Huang Lung Ong of Huang & Company Advocates, was also recorded trying to sell land for his uncle, a prominent businessman in Sibu, Datuk Hii Yii Peng, said to have close ties with Taib, saying that at least 10 per cent of the sale price would have to go to the chief minister as commission.

In its statement, GW alleged that senior government officials and a timber company executive said it was standard practice in Sarawak for companies to pay a personal fee to Abdul Taib in return for approval of timber and plantation licences.

London lawyers representing the chief minister have denied the allegations, the NGO reported.

“The Government of Sarawak issues licences for land in very controlled circumstances,” the law firm, Mishcon de Reya, was quoted as saying. “This is an administrative exercise, not political patronage.

“Our client never demands or accepts bribes for the grant of licences and leases.

“He has not issued any ‘directive’… illegally to benefit his cousins.”

Taib, 76, has been Sarawak chief minister for 32 years, having taken office in March 1981.

His personal wealth has stirred much controversy, with detractors alleging he gained much of it through dubious means.

 

People Should Not Be Discouraged from Telling the Truth


Feb 25, 2011

Tan Sri Robert Phang Miow Sin is a former member of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel (CCPP). He resigned from the post recently amid the graft allegations that were leveled at him following his urging for an investigation into alleged corrupt practices in Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Phang, who is also a Justice of the Peace, said his decision to pull out from CCPP was to preserve his integrity as well as that of MACC.

An interview with Tan Sri Robert Phang Miow Sin

MD: Do you ever feel regretful of your decision to pull out of the MACC panel?

RP: This is a very soul-searching question. Very hurting question, because, after two years in MACC, I’ve made a name for myself. I criticized if it is bad, I praised if it is good. For example, the introduction of ETP, it’s a good move. It must be supported.

Regretful of pulling out? It was a very decisive decision because my intention is to walk the talk. I always profess and say, be vocal, truthful and responsible. If an allegation was made against me, I have no choice. If I had waited, people will say that Phang is going to wait and use his influence to jeopardize the case. That’s is what I don’t want. I want to stop even the suspicion, and stop the speculations. I want to walk the talk. I regret (pulling out) in the sense that, what had I done wrong? Not that I alleged the A-G on anything. I just asked him to come up with an explanation to the public.

Have you consulted anyone before resigning from your post in MACC?

My family always said that I’m a stupid guy. At 72, still wants to be busybody. You know the family’s concern, this is love. Of course they’re concerned. I told my wife, if anything happens to me, I think the public knows who to go after.

How do you feel about the A-G and MACC after what had happen?
I think the MACC is already realizing what the public wants the most. MACC is equally very concerned and the A-G, I think, should be very careful. He has a lot of allegations thrown against him too in public domain. In fairness to the A-G he has a challenging job. All in all he has to be tactful and very careful.

How would you comment on the allegation thrown at you?

I feel sad. Sad because I have been implicated. Sick as the whole society feels very sick. Sick in the sense if someone is telling the truth, you should be allowed to find out more about the truth. And it is good for the society, for the institution.

I really pray that our PM not only must be supported but he also must take note that in order for him to know he must have the real feel and not only rely on the reports from the authorities, the institution or the department. I can bet that the reports are not comprehensive enough. I think the PM needs to set up a very independent council where you can invite people from all walks of life that are courageous to speak the truth based on what is happening on the ground, and then he’ll get the real picture. Did you make further attempts to find the blogger who alleged you?

I hired a private investigator but still cannot find the blogger. The PI reported that the blog had already been traced but it’s registered under somebody else’s name. But those parts I will leave it to my lawyer to do the follow up. This is serious you know? If any anonymous blogger can issue out a statement to allege and defame someone without any truth behind it the society would be in topsy-turvy.

Do you have any suspects in mind?

I have suspects, but they’re just speculations. But that I leave to my lawyer and my PI to check. I wont give up; I want to trace them down.

What is the chance you returning as panel of MACC?

(Laughs) I have faith in the chief commissioner and the two deputies, Datuk Sukri and Datuk Haji Mustafa. I believe that they are independent and fair people. What is also in my mind, in MACC there is DPP (Deputy Public Prosecutor), the DPP is from the A-G’s office. What are the functions of DPP, we don’t know. If we were to say MACC is independent, it means every investigation has to be referred to the DPP or the MACC solely decides. Of course, for the time when you need to go for prosecution or decision for prosecution, you refer to the DPP.

So in my case, because I believe it (the allegation) is all not true, you cannot go through the investigation. Black is black, white is white once you go through the investigation. I have faith in those three panels. They are professional and also impartial. What is important is I have to be cleared first.

If I am cleared from the allegation, what we need to do is to go down to the rakyat and seek their participation to support and fight corruption. If I’m cleared, my goal is achieved. It is my commitment and principle to walk the talk. I think I should continue to fight corruption. Why shouldn’t I? But only if they want me, of course.

Who do you think would gain from the allegation made against you?

I look into two aspects. First of all, why did they do that? I already have the conclusion; they try to keep my mouth shut, to silence me. I learned a lot. The moment the investigation took place I should keep my mouth shut. Let the MACC do the necessary.

This allegation, as it is, has already garnered me followers. Look at the blogs, many people are supporting me. This is because our society thinks they need more people who have guts to speak out, to highlight what is right and what is wrong. In that respect, I think they have made me more popular. Any righteous, any social injustice, any so called truth to be highlighted, I am there.

What are your expectations for Malaysia in the fight against corruption?

I expect the rakyat to have better feedback from the events happening. I also expect people to come out and tell the truth. I hope more unnecessary pressure will be bestowed against me. Be ready to tell the truth and let god decide. No fear except to god. A word of wisdom, you can bluff anybody, but don’t bluff god. Never take god for a ride. I think that my incident is a nuisance. People need not be discouraged to tell the truth. People must support MACC in the eradication of corruption. Have no fear.

During my two years in MACC,  lots of letters from the public were sent to me and MACC asking for MACC to investigate. I just want to let them know that I will forward their letters to other MACC panel for necessary action to be taken. I appeal to the government that anybody who has a personal agenda or interest to not be the commissioner of MACC because some of them are even consultants to MACC as well as to the A-G’s office. So if they sit there as a commissioner or panel advisor, how can they be independent.  I also hope that Malaysian Digest can express this positively and objectively, give the true picture so the public can realize. And then I have no regrets. My resignation is absolutely necessary in the most honorable way so that people will know that I walk the talk.

Any last words Tan Sri?

Lastly, I appeal to MACC if there is investigation to be conducted, please speed it up because I’m looking forward to serve the nation with dignity, again.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) (Malay: Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia, (SPRM)) (formerly Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) or Badan Pencegah Rasuah (BPR)) is a government agency in Malaysia that investigates and persecutes corruption in the public and private sectors.

Source : http://www.malaysiandigest.com/features/17656-robert-phang-people-should-not-be-discouraged-from-telling-the-truth.html

The MAS and Robert Phang Story continues


February 11, 2011

The MAS and Robert Phang Story continues: Charge the KSU for not reporting a bribery attempt

by Din Merican

The MAS scandal is like a fiery comet flying across the sky. It has brought a trail of other scandals into light. The anonymous blogs are now saying that the losses which MAS suffered during Tajuddin Ramli’s time was not true. That it was just a just a fiction. That MAS was never heading towards bankruptcy and the Widespread Asset Unbundling (WAU) exercise was a scam. Who created the fiction and the scam?

Former MAS Managing Director must answer

The best person to answer this question is Dato’ Seri Idris Jala. He was once MAS Managing Director, now entrusted by Prime Minister Najib to implement the country’s Economic Transformation Plan (ETP). It was during Idris’ time that MAS pursued criminal and civil avenues to hold Tajuddin liable for MAS’ losses. So let Idris answer if the losses were just fiction. If it was fiction, then we have a lot to worry in leaving the whole country’s economic fortunes in the hands of Idris Jala.

New Conspiracy Theory

A new conspiracy theory is now being spun by Tajuddin’s supporters that he was booted out by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economic Planning Unit) Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop. So, Tajuddin’s henchman and proxy, Shahidan Shafie, with his wide tentacles in every law enforcement agency, including being A-G Gani Patail’s close friend, is now hunting those connected to Nor Mohamed. Shahidan is now exacting revenge for Tajuddin.

Only yesterday, the MACC charged Nor Mohamed Yakcop’s former political secretary, Hasbie Satar, for money-laundering. Hasbie, 37, from Sarawak (Idris Jala’s home state) appeared alone and unrepresented when he was charged under Section 4 (1) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001. This offence carries a fine of RM5million or jail term of five years.

Targetting the High Performer Azman Mokhtar,  Khazanah Nasional CEO

Now Tajuddin and Shahidan are targeting the founders of the consultancy firm, Bina Fikir, which was responsible for WAU. Using the blogs, they have linked Nor Mohamed to Bina Fikir’s founders, Rashdan and Cambridge educated Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar who is now heading Khazanah Nasional Berhad, the nation’s investment arm. There are whispers within Khazanah that MACC has been busy visiting Khazanah on uncorroborated allegations. It seems that high performer Azman Mokhtar is being harassed using the MACC. It seems nobody is safe from the wrath of Tajuddin Ramli.

Bribery Allegation Against Robert Phang

Earlier on, using the same anonymous blogs they made an allegation that Tan Sri Robert Phang had attempted to bribe a Secretary-General or Ketua Setiausaha (KSU) of a ministry. To seek vindication and to be cleared early of these allegations, Tan Sri Robert Phang has resigned from the MACC Panel to facilitate the investigations. Since then, the MACC has gone quiet. Instead of hastening their investigation to clear Robert Phang, the MACC seems to be doing nothing. Or is something being planned so that the KSU in question will co-operate with the agenda?

What do we know about the bribery allegation? The allegation is that sometime before Hari Raya of 2010, the KSU of a Ministry which was awarding a contract worth RM 900 million had had chased Tan Sri Robert Phang out of his office because Phang tried to bribe him. What is so difficult to investigate this allegation?

Just interview the KSU concerned. If the KSU says that story is a lie,that’s the end of it. The MACC should announce that finding openly and then clear Robert Phang so that he can qualify for an extension when the MACC Panel’s term is renewed after February 24. Why is the MACC dragging its feet? Is there any reason in delaying the investigation? Is it to disqualify Phang from seeking re-appointment. Clearly public opinion is behind Phang to be re-appointed in that Panel because  Phang is the lone voice who has refused to be a rubberstamp.

On the other hand, if the KSU confirms the bribery allegation, then further investigations must be conducted. The KSU must be asked if he had reported that incident to his immediate boss, the Ketua Setiausaha Negara (KSN). If he did, what did the KSN advise him to do? Did the KSN direct him to lodge a report with the MACC? If neither of them reported to the MACC, then both of the KSN and the KSU should be  hauled up and charged for failing to report a bribery. That is an offence under s. 25 of the MACC Act which provides as follows:

S. 25  Duty to report bribery transactions

(1)     Any person to whom any gratification is given, promised, or offered, in contravention of any provision of this Act shall report such gift, promise or offer together with the name, if known, of the person who gave, promised or offered such gratification to him to the nearest officer of the commission or police officer.

(2)    Any person who fails to comply with subsection (1) commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or to both.

(3)     Any person from whom any gratification has been solicited or obtained, or an attempt has been made to obtain such gratification, in contravention of any provision of this Act shall at the earliest opportunity thereafter report such soliciting or obtaining of, or attempt to obtain, the gratification together with the full and true description and if known, the name of the person who solicited, or obtained, or attempted to obtain, the gratification from him to the nearest officer of the commission or police officer.

(4)    Any person who fails, without reasonable excuse, to comply with subsection (3) commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding ten thousand ringgit or to imprisonment.

That is how simple the investigation should be. That is how simple it is to ascertain if the KSU, the MACC and the A-G are trying to fix Robert Phang for speaking out about A-G Gani Patail’s connections to Shahidan Shafie and Tajuddin Ramli. Let the KSU be forewarned that he can be fined RM100,000 and imprisoned for 10 years if now tries to fix Phang by admitting there was such a bribery attempt .

If the KSU tries to play ball now, whereas he did not report that bribery attempt in September of 2010, then I have no hesitation to say that the public have every right to demand that MACC charge the KSU for not reporting the bribery attempt!