Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Deja-vu Teoh: Customs officer probed for graft falls to death at MACC buildin

In a harsh throwback to the tragic death of Selangor political aide Teoh Beng Hock, another body has been found dead outside the building of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

This time, the place is Jalan Cochrane in Kuala Lumpur and the the person who died is a Customs officer, an assistant director of the Selangor Customs Department who had been under investigation for graft allegedly involving billions of ringgit in unpaid taxes.

He was released on bail two days ago and is believed to have fallen off the third floor of the MACC building, where he had gone to meet the agency's investigation officer. His body was discovered on Wednesday morning.

According to MACC director of investigations Mustafar Ali, the investigator had told the Customs officer to wait while he went to collect a file pertaining to the case. When he returned, he found the Customs officer missing.

Meanwhile, Pakatan Rakyat leaders called on Prime Minister Najib Razak to act swiftly and neutrally before public confidence in the nation's enforcement agencies plunged further.

"It looks suspicious because the 'victim' was out on bail. Whatever it is, we want completely fair and neutral investigations," Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah told Malaysia Chronicle.

"A special police task force must be set and it must be at arms length with the MACC. We don't want any collusion like in the Teoh Beng Hock case, where there were obviously feelings of partisanship and the wish to help and cover up for each other."

Corruption unlimited

Last week, a total of 62 Customs officers had been arrested in a joint operation in Penang, Johor, Selangor and Pahang by a task force comprising the MACC, the Inland Revenue Board, the Customs Department and Bank Negara.

One officer was found to have several million ringgit in his bank account while another had almost RM1 million. Two others had more than RM500,000 each. Two imitation pistols with more than 200 rounds of bullet as well as fireworks and illicit cigarettes were also recovered from another senior officer's house.

“Our officers even found gold bars stashed in the house of one of the officers while another had more than RM600,000 in several bags in his house," MACC's Mustafar (right) had told reporters at a press conference on Saturday.

But the glory has been overtaken by Wednesday's macabre discovery. The MACC is now scheduled to hold a press conference to clarify the incident this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the office of Customs director-general Mohamed Khalid Yusuf confirmed the news that one of its senior officers had died.

“Ya, (Customs) confirms the incident occurred. (Mohamad Khalid) was shocked when he heard the report,” his special officer Masrul Amri Kamaruddin was reported as saying.

While details are not fully revealed yet, it is hard for an already cynical public not to think the worst of the MACC, the police and the Najib administration.

Through the decades, top leaders from the ruling Umno party have ridden roughshod over the government institutions, compelling them to act in their favour rather than independently and neutrally.

Najib set the example with Perak abuse

Najib's own abuse of power during the 2009 Perak coup d'etat was the most evident case, where he misused the judiciary with impunity, forcing the courts to uphold decisions that clearly contradicted the federal constituion.

From then on, public confidence in him and the government declined. Foreign investors too bailed out in droves, plunging Malaysia's FDI receipts by 81 per cent in 2009.

Apart from Perak, Najib also spearheaded an Umno plot to wrest back the Selangor state government from the Pakatan Rakyat.

This time instead of defections, the plan was to 'frame' Pakatan legislative assemblymen in Selangor for corruption, force them to quit their parties and become BN-friendly independents.

Teoh Beng Hock was a fresh-faced 30-year old political aide to Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong, a senior executive councillor.

On July 15, 2009, he was hauled up for questioning as a witness into allegations about Ean's corruption. But like the Customs officer, Beng Hock never left the MACC building alive.

He is believed to have fallen to his death from the 14th floor office of the MACC building in Shah Alam. The MACC insisted he committed suicide, while his family and colleagues were sure it was homicide.

After 18-months, a long drawn-out public inquest delivered an open verdict. The Coroner said it was neither suicide or homicide.

And only after tremendous public pressure did Najib finally agree to hold a Royal Commission of Inquiry, but again the terms of reference were controversial and sparked accusations that it would achieve nothing, but whitewash the entire incident to protect the MACC conspiracy with Selangor Umno.

[Source: MC]

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