Bank Negara's land buy sparks talk of 1MDB bailout

Questions are growing around the Malaysian central bank's recent purchase of government land for RM2 billion (S$678 million), with observers saying it is unusual for the institution to pay market price for state land.

The hefty price tag has also sparked claims that the government is raiding Bank Negara Malaysia's (BNM) coffers to bail out troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which last December forked out US$602.7 million (S$802 million) to settle a debt with Abu Dhabi's International Petroleum Investment Company (Ipic).

BNM's response this week that the buy was an "arm's length transaction" only fuelled further disquiet over whether the financial regulator should be making such deals at commercial prices.

"It was not the government that wanted to sell the land to us. We actually approached the government many months ago to buy the land," BNM governor Muhammad Ibrahim was quoted as saying by The Edge Financial Daily on Monday (Feb 5).

Senior opposition lawmaker Tony Pua retorted that "Malaysians cannot be blamed for believing that Bank Negara allowed itself to be raided" with the "outrageous purchase" of some 23ha "in order to bail out 1MDB".

"Why should it be arm's length in the first place when the land was not intended for Bank Negara to make a profit?" he said, referring to BNM's stated aim of using the land for an education hub.

The government usually gives public universities land at a nominal rate, but the land purchased by BNM next to its existing Sasana Kijang complex in Kuala Lumpur's green lung Bukit Perdana works out to approximately RM823 per sq ft.

Read the full original article at The Straits Times.

Setya Novanto's Lawyer Charged With Obstruction of Justice

Antigraft prosecutors indicted lawyer Fredrich Yunadi on Thursday (08/02) on obstruction of justice charges in a graft case against his former client, Setya Novanto.

Setya, former House of Representatives speaker and former Golkar Party chairman, is currently on trial in the multimillion-dollar graft case involving procurement of national electronic identity cards (e-KTP).

Prosecutors said Fredrich colluded with Bimanesh Sutardjo, a doctor from the Medika Permata Hijau hospital in South Jakarta, to help Setya evade arrest, after he had failed to meet Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) summonses.

"They had Setya hospitalized at the Medika Permata Hijau hospital to help him elude KPK investigators," prosecutor Fitroh Rohyanto said.

Setya was rushed to the hospital in mid-November, after a car accident.

Fitroh said Fredrich advised Setya to skip the summonses and lied about his client's whereabouts.

According to the prosecutors, Fredrich reserved one floor at the hospital for Setya and had Bimanesh issue a false medical report for the former speaker. Setya was diagnosed with hypertension, vertigo and diabetes without prior examination. Bimanesh is currently in KPK custody.

Read the full original article at Jakarta Globe.

How Prawit has succeeded where Prayut has failed

Of all people, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan shouldn’t have been surprised by the public uproar over the latter’s luxury wristwatches. In politics, transparency has to do with doubts as much as facts. You can’t keep governing effectively when you are the centre of suspicion, whether you’re innocent or not.

Probably it’s not fair, but Prayut staged a coup against the Yingluck government first and put the former prime minister and some of her Cabinet members on trial for alleged corruption later.

The same “principle” should apply where Prawit is concerned. Once serious doubts mount, the man first has to go, and then he can start trying to prove his innocence.

Since his controversial rise to power, Prayut has prioritised a campaign against corruption.

To be successful, he must first realise that the problem is not just about crooks receiving bribes or awarding lucrative projects to their own networks. There are the same people everywhere, but it is particularly hard in Thailand to tackle the issue exactly because of the kind of pro-Prawit attitudes on the government side.

Thailand’s vicious cycle goes like this: Powerful politicians start by declaring war on corruption, and anyone except their own people are punished. Once those in power face graft accusations themselves, they decry a “conspiracy”, saying the charges were cooked up in order to bring them down.

The powerful politicians then will collapse under the weight of massive scandals, giving way for a new bunch to come in and declare a fresh war on corruption. On and on it has been going.

If fighting corruption is all about finding out what your enemies do or did and penalising them, anyone can conquer graft, because that is super easy. The hard part is how to deal with corruption among your own people, or even doubts concerning your own people. This is a problem facing every democratically elected government, and it’s now seriously threatening the Prayut regime.

Read the full original article at The Nation.

IBON: Swiss challenge will lead to ‘more hidden corruption’

President Rodrigo Duterte’s preference to Swiss challenge mode for private-sector involvement in big-ticket infrastructure projects could lead to “more extensive and veiled corruption,” research group IBON said.

“The present public bidding system is imperfect but the proposed shift to the Swiss challenge system is a false solution to corruption and will make the bidding of government projects more secretive,” IBON said in a statement.

While complaining about public bidding system for supposedly breeding corruption and causing delays, Duterte last month said “all projects of the Philippines” would be implemented through Swiss challenge.

Under a Swiss challenge system, a government agency may receive unsolicited proposals from private groups that will compete to match each other’s offer. The state will then select the best proposal in terms of both quality and cost.

But according to Republic Act 7718, or the Philippine BOT law, “priority projects” are not eligible to be accepted as unsolicited proposals unless “involving new concept or technology.”

The Duterte administration has set an P8.44-trillion infrastructure spending plan until 2022 to spur gross domestic product growth to 7-8 percent starting this year from a targeted 6.5-7.5 percent in 2017.

In the same statement, IBON pointed out that under a Swiss challenge mode, the public will be unable to determine if the bid evaluation committee is giving “undue favors” to a project proponent, as the group criticized the Duterte administration’s “ineffective” executive freedom of information program.

Read the full orginal article at Philstar Global.

Former supervisor gets jail, fined RM20,000 for bribery

A former landfill site supervisor was sentenced to a month's jail and fined RM20,000 or 20 months jail in default, by the Sessions Court here today, for offering a bribe to a Solid Waste And Public Cleansing Management Corporation deputy-director (Management) last year.

Judge Azura Alwi handed down the sentence on N. Thinesh Rao, 28, after he pleaded guilty to the charge.

The court ordered the accused to serve the jail sentence from today.

N.Thinesh was charged with offering RM4,000 bribe to Mohd Zaki Harry Susanto @ Mohd Zaki Mohamad as an inducement to refrain from seizing four lorries for having committed an offence under Section 71 (1) of the Solid Waste and Public Cleaning Management Act 2007 (672).

The offence was committed at Jalan 4/155, Bukit OUG, here at 10.30am on Sept 19, 2017 under Section 17 (b) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 (MACC) and punishable under Section 24 of the same Act.

The section provides for a maximum jail term of 20 years and a fine of not less than five times the amount of bribe or RM10,000 or whichever is higher.

Read the full original article at The Sun Daily.

Assistant environmental health officer detained by MACC over RM5,000 bribe

An assistant environmental health officer has been detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for allegedly accepting a RM5,000 bribe.

The suspect was said to have taken the bribe from a manager of an event management company as a reward for supporting the company's application to host a programme in the district this year.

The 57-year-old suspect was detained at the MACC branch office in Segamat at about 2.30pm on Tuesday (Feb 6) to assist in investigations.

A team of investigators seized several documents linked to the programme during a raid at the suspect’s office at Jalan Buluh Kasap.

The case is being investigated under Section 16 (a)(B) of the MACC Act 2009, which carries a maximum 20 years imprisonment and a fine of at least five times the value of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

When contacted, Johor MACC director Datuk Azmi Alias confirmed the arrest and said that the suspect would be brought to court Wednesday (Feb 7) for a remand application.

Read the full original article at The Star Online.

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