Friday, March 22, 2013

Careful Statement From MAS Does More Harm Than Good

Ouch! For those of you who don't know, Global Witness is an international NGO which has been around for about 20 years. Established in 1993, it works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, poverty, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide.

With a charter like that, it's small wonder they decided to target Sarawak's Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. Mr. Taib had been the Chief Minister of the Malaysian state for the past few decades (since 1981) and has been accused of corruption for years. In a "sting" operation, , investigators posing as foreign investors got Taib's cousins and lawyers on video discussing plans to buy Sarawak land (illegally) for hefty profit and how they could evade taxes by funneling the money through Singapore.

Global Witness even put up a video titled "Inside Malaysia's Shadow State" which had went viral in the region. In it, a lawyer for Taib's family, Mr. Alvin Chong openly told the investigators it's "obvious" to go through Singapore to evade taxes as the Singapore government "has a China Wall... a firewall. They will not tell the Malaysian government nothing". He then went on to say that Singapore is "the new Switzerland. We operate Singapore accounts too, both personal and corporate entities".

What's worse for Singapore is that the video had snippets of conversations that implied that this arrangement is something that had been done before. When the investigators told Mr. Chong this plan seems very well-though out, he smiled and said he had "done it many a times". The video even had one of the Chief Minister's sisters, Norlia Abdul Rahman, describing how the money for the deal would be paid for in Singapore and that “it had been done before”.

Ouch! If there were any doubts that Singapore has become a centre for money laundering, this video pretty much settled it. This isn't the first time Singapore had been accused of being a centre for money laundering. Indonesia say about 20 Indonesian, all suspected of crimes in Indonesia, are all hiding out in Singapore.

In the wake of the video, both the Ministry of Finance and Monetary Authority of Singapore had come out with a careful statement on the claims made in the video. The statement state that the Singapore government do not withhold information requested by the Malaysian government.

Unfortunately for the Singapore government, that wasn't the main point of the video.

Seriously, who cares if info has been passed from Singapore to Malaysia? The main point of the video is that MONEY passed from Malaysia to Singapore. Money that was gotten from a dodgy land deal that went through Singapore to evade taxes. Did that happen? Had it happened before?

On this, there is silence from Singapore. And that is, unfortunately, as good as admitting it.

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