RM2.6 billion is no ordinary donation, but ‘grand corruption’, says Transparency chief

Despite Umno leaders dismissing the RM2.6 billion in Datuk Seri Najib Razak's bank accounts as not a big deal, Transparency International chairman Jose Ugaz said it has all the elements of "grand corruption". The globally renowned anti-graft fighter said grand corruption has three characteristics: it is committed by those in very high positions of power, involves huge amount of money, and has an impact on human rights. Speaking at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Ugaz said the RM2.6 billion that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak received in his personal bank accounts was an example of grand corruption. The funds transfer, Ugaz said, was comparable to illicit funds that flowed to major banks such as the United Kingdom’s HSBC and France’s BNP Paribas. Activists have in the past claimed that HSBC had funnelled money from illegal logging in Sarawak, while a US court had fined BNP Paribas US$9 billion for moving billions of dollars to countries labelled as sponsors of terrorism. Last month, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) confirmed that Najib had received the RM2.6 billion from an unnamed Middle Eastern source for an unspecified purpose. “If that money is meant to help the poor and it did not go to them, then that impacts their human rights,” Ugaz told The Malaysian Insider on the sidelines of the conference. “He has not explained, for what and where the money came from and what he was to do when he received it. “He must also prove that the money is not illicit or that it comes from an illicit source. Political parties should not receive money that comes from illegal origins,” Ugaz said. Following revelations of the transactions into Najib’s accounts, critics have demanded his resignation. They also rubbished his explanation that it was to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), saying the terrorist group was formed much later after 2013, when the transactions took place. The Umno president has defended the "donation", saying it was for his party. Najib’s supporters in Umno, such as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, had said that the funds were not a big issue, while Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor described it as "normal" for party presidents to hold funds in trust. The RM2.6 billion "donation" has been a hot talking point among speakers at the IACC. On Wednesday, Ugaz said Malaysia’s commitment to tackle corruption could not be taken seriously as long as there was no satisfactory explanation on the matter. He noted the replacement of Malaysia's attorney-general “who was critical of the government”, suspension of the task force probing into the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) issue, arrests of graft investigators and suspension on a newspaper. "These are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption,” Ugaz had told the conference of top anti-graft authorities, experts and activists from around the world. – September 4, 2015.

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