Dr M: Data sharing on financial crimes only for crime prevention purposes

Azril Annuar
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (centre) attends the 11th International Conference on Financial Crimes and Terrorism Financing at the Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur November 5, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 5 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today assured that personal data will remain protected despite the Public-Private Partnership Initiative (PPP) where banks and financial institutions will grant direct assistance to anti-graft and enforcement agencies.

Speaking at the launch of the International Conference on Financial Crimes and Terrorism Financing, the prime minister said that law enforcement and financial institutions will adhere to Malaysia’s data protection legislation in its efforts to exterminate financial crimes.

“PPP promotes synergy in Anti-Money Laundering or Countering Financing of Terrorism measures. This is achieved through effective, timely and seamless sharing of financial intelligence from financial institutions for the purpose of crime prevention and law enforcement.

“It’s more effective detection of suspicious transactions by financial institutions and other reporting institutions would go a long way to eradicate financial crimes.

“A key component of PPP models throughout the world is the emphasis on personal data protection and confidentiality, benchmarked against the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“For Malaysia’s PPP, law enforcement and financial institutions would continue to adhere to Malaysia’s data protection legal framework in combating financial crimes,” said Dr Mahathir.

Earlier, Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) Chief Commissioner Latheefa Koya had told the conference that her agency’s Anti-Money Laundering Division has started collaborating with Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) Financial Intelligence and Enforcement Department.

The collaboration will see MACC receiving direct assistance to effectively conduct investigations and intelligence gathering to prevent corruption and money laundering ― both at domestic and international levels.

The anti-graft agency chief said banks and other financial institutions should place a transaction monitoring system capable of red-flagging suspicious behaviour or transaction patterns of their clients.

She said that there must be enhanced due diligence on high-profile customers, such as high-risk customers, those with beneficial ownership, politically-exposed persons as well as their close relations and associates.

However, Dr Mahathir also reminded the audience that ultimately, Malaysia’s citizens are the ones to decide whether or not the efforts to curb financial crimes will succeed.

“To put it bluntly, Malaysia Baharu cannot happen if we do not shed and remove old mentality that compromised and tolerated corrupt practices.

“I used to say that previously, when corruption was an “under the table” act, it was a scourge to our nation’s future. But the last few years saw corruption becoming an “over the table” act, being committed openly by the top leaders. Others will then do the same without fear.

“From an act viewed with disgust, it became acceptable and, before long, those not into it would be considered stupid,” said Dr Mahathir to the applause of the hall.

He elaborated that corruption became so endemic that it nearly became a lifestyle and whenever cash was offered, it was heralded as the new “King”.

Furthermore, he pointed that if there is no decisive shift in behaviour and expectations of Malaysians in favour of transparency and accountability, the nation’s Shared Prosperity Vision will fail.

“Everyone needs to play their part against financial crime so that Malaysia can transform into a value-driven developed nation.

“Shared prosperity can only be achieved through shared responsibility. Thus, the private institutions and rakyat have a vital role to play as well in preserving the integrity of Malaysia’s financial system,” said Dr Mahathir.

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