PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang’s remarks that Tan Sri Azam Baki is cleared of any wrongdoings were his personal views and not the stance of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB), say the other members of the seven-man panel.
Six of them have issued a statement to distance themselves from Abu Zahar, the chairman of the board, saying that the latter’s remarks did not reflect the board’s views, which were not addressed during the press conference on Jan 5.
In the statement, the six comprising Tan Sri Ismail Omar, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, Datuk Dr Hamzah Kassim, Datuk David Chua Kok Tee and Prof Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff said the board members were not satisfied with the explanation provided by Azam, who is the MACC chief commissioner.
“Abu Zahar said the board was satisfied with the explanation given by Azam. He further said there was no crime committed or conflict of interest in the matter.
“We categorically wish to state that the board members at that meeting or at any time thereafter did not express such opinion as Abu Zahar attributed to.
“These comments were entirely Abu Zahar’s personal view,” they said yesterday.
The six stated that before the Wednesday press conference, a separate discussion was held on the matter and several proposals were submitted.
One of the proposals was for the matter to be brought to an independent committee, the Parliamentary Special Committee on Corruption or the MACC’s complaints panel.
“However, our views and proposals were not raised at Abu Zahar’s press conference.
“The ACAB has no investigation power as it is established as an advisory board. We need to provide this clarification in order to safeguard the integrity of the board and the institution,” they said.
Members of ACAB are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
Among the board’s role is to advise the MACC on corruption and any aspect of the problem in Malaysia, including scrutinising and endorsing the MACC’s need for resources to ensure its effectiveness.
The statement was released a day after Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said a probe had been opened on Azam.
During the Jan 5 press conference, Abu Zahar said the board was satisfied with Azam’s statement and there was no conflict of interest on the latter’s part as MACC chief over the acquisition of shares in 2015.
He said this was because the shares were not purchased by the MACC chief commissioner himself but by his younger brother Nasir Baki.
Abu Zahar said ACAB had called for a meeting on Nov 24 last year and summoned Azam to explain the allegations.
He said that after a lengthy discussion, ACAB members were satisfied and were of the opinion that Azam did not have any pecuniary interest in the said shares.
In explaining the issue, Azam said during the Jan 5 press conference that his younger brother had borrowed his trading account to buy shares in the open market and financed the purchases on his own.
Meanwhile, Prof Dr Edmund Terence Gomez, who was responsible for highlighting the issue, said it was insufficient for the ACAB to distance themselves from Abu Zahar’s statements at his press conference.
He said the board members must explain why they did not insist on an independent investigation into the allegations against Azam when it was first brought to their attention.
“I urge the board members to go further and confirm one other issue: Did the ACAB meet on Nov 24, 2021, as claimed by Abu Zahar, to discuss the allegations about Azam’s business interests?
“If there was a meeting on Nov 24, then another question must be answered. The board members have confirmed that they do not have the authority to exonerate Azam of the allegations made against him.
“If they state this now, why then did they exonerate Azam at the meeting on Nov 24?” he said in a statement.