The recent story by Asian Correspondent about declassified US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report about the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance scandal in the early 80s in Hong Kong, had political linkages and implications to Fourth Prime Minister then Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“CIA document produced in March 1985 said “circumstantial evidence” suggested that the scandal extends into the Mahathir administration. This was because as a government-owned banking institution, Bank Bumi was closely monitored buy the both the Finance Ministry and Central Bank”.
BMF scandal was about fraud of unsecured loans were drawn to non existent projects and accounts, which brought forth a loss of USD1 bil.
It was Godly sum those days for monies to be pumped from Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong and disbursed without control, which prompted an investigation. Assistant General Manager A Jalil Ibrahim was posted to Hong Kong and found irregularities, which ended with his brutal murder.
It was by far the most scandalous case in Malaysian banking history and the longest criminal case in Hong Kong.
Dr. Mahathir is trying to absolve responsibility from the case with the excuse that the loss was not money by the Malaysian Government but it was owned by Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Bhd.
The ownership of Bank Bumi then was 100% by the Malaysian Government.
He then also went on to highlight that he was not the Minister of Finance. It was presumed that the Minister of Finance should be responsible.
Dr Mahathir became Malaysia’s Fourth Prime Minister on 16 July 1981.
Then again, out of the concept and practice of ‘Collective Responsibility’, the Prime Minister should be aware than the sinful amount of cash (RM2.5 bil) was channeled by Bank Bumi to BMF in Hong Kong in so quick and short period of time. In 1982-3, the movement of over USD1 bil is something very significant.
It is also important to highlight that even though Dr Mahathir was not the Prime Minister and UMNO President yet in 1978, he was made the Chairman of the Committee for the development of PWTC. It means that it was his burden to find money, to pay for the development of PWTC.
Dr Mahathir was the Minister of Trade and Industry in 1978, until he assume the Premiership.
PWTC was completed in 1985 with the cost of then RM400 mil. It was a princely sum since no commercial development project in Malaysia was that big and UMNO was not an entity which is bankable and could borrow money.
What ever money to pay for PWTC, must come through the coffers. And UMNO had not have business enterprise, to generate enough dough for the complete development of PWTC.
An investigation was carried out then Auditor General Tan Sri Ahmad Noordin Zakaria. However, he never had the opportunity to present the findings to the public when his three-man panel competed their case in 1986.
Then Attorney General Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman also never charged anyone for the BMF scandal.
Another interesting point to note is that Dr. Mahathir and BMF Chairman Lorrain Esme Osman served on the board of FIMA in the early 70s.
George Tan, the founder of the Carrian Group had been chummy-chummy with many top Government and party leaders.
For all intent and purpose, the BMF scandal and the loss which was burdened upon Bank Bumi came and went as if it was an ordinary day at work. This is despite Jalil was a victim and his family was denied of their father, without proper closure.
Perhaps it is the best opportunity to bring a closure to the case. Lately it has been a pattern that Dr Mahathir might ‘Flip-Flop’ against the things he had said before.
Some expects “I can’t remember”. That, would be entertaining!