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The smell of money

  • MACC is not just targeting the small fry nowadays.

Sin Chew Daily

In the Name of People, a Chinese TV series that has chalked the highest viewership in almost a decade, has also become a hit here in Malaysia.

At the same time the TV series on battling rampant corruption made its debut in China, Malaysia's MACC was stepping up its effort to combat corruption, and as such the drama has managed to strike a chord with the local audiences.

Corruption is rife in Mainland China. President Xi Jinping's reinforced anti-corruption campaign has seen the apprehension of many senior government officials and party top guns.

In the meantime, our MACC is also taking on corruption and power abuse in a big way, exposing to the media big and small cases from things as trivial as offering small bribes to traffic police cops to the "Watergate" of Sabah, in hope of cautioning the public against acts of corruption through media coverage.

While the extent of corruption in Malaysia may not be on the same level as that of China, the objective of corruption-busting in both countries is largely the same. In China, those in the CPC Politburo Standing Committee are generally safe, as no one has the guts to touch them, similar to the situation here whereby MACC will only catch the small fry, leaving the big sharks alone.

However, since the apprehension of Zhou Yongkang, it appears that Xi is less fearful now to round up even the highest in office. In Malaysia, MACC has also turned in some "big fish" the last couple of years, including the rural and regional development ministry sec-gen, Johor state exco, Sabah water department director and his deputy, as well as senior officials from PDRM, customs department, immigration department and JPJ.

MACC chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad is never shy of showing off his track record. So far, individuals holding Datuk, Datuk Seri and Tan Sri titles have been booked, showing that the agency is not just targeting the small fry now.

Dzulkifli has honored his pledge of at least charging one corrupt official every week. Last Thursday, MACC charged a total of 13 people at six different local courts across East and West Malaysia, including a former magistrate who offered a RM1,000 bribe to a deputy prosecutor while she was a practicing lawyer.

MACC is rounding up fish big and small, and has departed from its usual style of non-publicity. Because of that we have seen a sudden surge in the number of corrupt officials, giving the public a distorted impression that corruption is getting increasingly serious in the country. Meanwhile, it has also brought out an important message that MACC has zero tolerance for the corrupt.

Corruption cases involving government officials come in all shapes and forms, from harboring prostitution and illegal gambling, to misappropriation of public funds. Their appetite seems to be getting larger and insatiable as well. Other than monetary gains, they are also looking for women, posh mansions, luxury cars, jewelleries and designer handbags, among other things.

In the past, corruption cases involved amounts up to several hundred thousands, but today, we are looking at millions and even tens of millions. The Sabah "watergate" case is particularly eye-popping, with RM54.7 million cash, RM60 million bank deposits, 127 land titles, nine luxury cars, 94 designer handbags, several dozens of deluxe watches and countless of jewelleries worth in excess of RM120 million collectively!

Little wonder MACC officials were amazed by the sight of the largest amount of cash in almost half a century since the agency's establishment, cash too much to hide that some has to go inside the TV cabinet in the living room!

We may not really understand how their appetite could stretch this far. Why do they need this astronomical sum of money? Or perhaps they simply love "the smell of money" quoting Zhao Dehan portrayed in the TV series In the Name of People.

Over the last two days, MACC arrested several senior police officers in Melaka involved in sheltering prostitution and illegal gambling activities, including two police district chiefs, underscoring the fact that corruption is not happening exclusively among lower-ranking officers.

Last Monday, MACC jointly organized a "3J" campaign with Sin Chew Daily, in which the chief commissioner urged Malaysians not to offer bribes to settle their problems, and should fearlessly say "No" to corruption.

As more than 50% of individuals implicated for alleged corruption have been civil servants, MACC is focusing on fighting corruption in the public service over the next three years.

The bad guys in In the Name of People will have to serve their jail sentences in the end for their wicked practices, but here in Malaysia, there is still a long way to go before the public would reverse their stereotyped impression that senior government officials are mostly corrupt.


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