Wednesday 21 November 2012

Hong Kong willing to re-open RM40m case - Teoh El Sen

Chief prosecutor Kevin Zervos says the only thing needed is fresh evidence.

PETALING JAYA: Hong Kong’s chief public prosecutor today expressed his willingness to re-open the case involving the controversial RM40 million that the Malaysian government claims was a “political donation” to Sabah Umno.

Kevin Zervos, Hong Kong’s Director of Public Prosecutions, told FMT that his office would require fresh evidence to revisit the case.

He added that his office and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) would welcome information from anyone.

“In relation to this case, it was more of a jurisdictional matter,” he said. “Material that was obtained from Malaysia was that it was political donations. If anything comes up now to show that this wasn’t the case, the matter would definitely be looked into.”

Any additional information or evidence should be brought to the ICAC’s attention, he added.

Referring to the earlier investigation, he said the money “was claimed to be political donations. We didn’t have additional evidence that was forthcoming that would enable us to deal with it.”

He declined to comment when asked whether he meant that the Malaysian side was not cooperative in the investigations.

Earlier, in an email to FMT, Zervos confirmed that funds in bank accounts in the name of a Malaysian national were suspected to have been held on behalf of a Malaysian government official.

He said Hong Kong authorities withheld the funds towards the end of 2008 while the ICAC and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) conducted a joint investigation.

The investigations looked into suspected breaches of Hong Kong’s Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

“Later in the investigation, information was supplied from Malaysia that the monies under restraint were political donations,” Zervos said. “As no further information or evidence was forthcoming with respect to the nature of the monies, there was insufficient evidence at that stage to take the case further.

“Accordingly, the restraint of the monies was lifted towards the end of 2011.”

Asked if he would consider the case closed, Zervos said the question was for the ICAC to answer.

He declined to comment when asked if he thought the investigation was adequate, or if there was anything to substantiate the claim that the funds were political donations.

On whether his office had the authority to call for further evidence, Zervos explained that in Hong Kong the prosecutors would guide enforcement authorities but would not take charge of investigations.

However, he said he was open to being questioned further, adding: “I firmly believe in being accountable. That’s a policy we have in Hong Kong. When we make a decision about a matter, we explain it.”

Rafizi’s Hong Kong visit

Asked for his thoughts about PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli’s plan to travel to Hong Kong tomorrow, Zervos said: “I’ve made it very clear that if there is any further information or evidence that would assist us, of course the authorities here would receive and evaluate it and deal with it accordingly.”

Rafizi said today that he would meet with the ICAC Operations Review Committee as well as Hong Kong politicians. He will be travelling with PKR MPs William Leong (Selayang) and Hee Loy Sian (Petaling Jaya Selatan) and state assemblyman Chang Li Kang (Teja).

The purpose of the trip is to find out whether the Malaysian government stonewalled the ICAC’s investigation of timber tycoon Michael Chia, who was carrying the RM40 million, and to seek a re-opening of the 2008 case.

In 2008, news reports said Chia, a Sabah businessman, was arrested at Hong Kong airport on suspicion of trying to smuggle out Singapore currency worth RM40 million. He reportedly told ICAC that the money was meant for Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman.

In October this year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz told Parliament that the money was political funding for Sabah Umno. He announced that both Hong Kong and Malaysian corruption authorities had closed the case.

Nazri disputed news reports about the case, saying Chia was never arrested by the ICAC. He also said the RM40 million seized from him was wired into an account and was not in the businessman’s possession.

Previously, it was also alleged that ICAC’s investigation had been dropped after three years because of a lack of cooperation by the Malaysian government. It was also reported that leaked MACC files revealed that Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail had shelved files on the investigations and refused to prosecute Musa.

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