Malaysian ex-minister Daim Zainuddin in trouble, faces possible life sentence


Malaysia’s former finance minister, Daim Zainuddin, who often is referred to as “the godfather of corporate Malaysia” – clearly is in huge trouble as he faces possible life sentence for laundering millions of dollars while leaked documents reveal that his family members are beneficiaries of a multimillion-dollar trust with investments in UK and US real estate. The revelation comes amidst an ongoing investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) into Daim’s offshore dealings, triggered by the Pandora Papers revelations. The documents suggest a complex web of financial transactions involving Daim’s family, prompting allegations of money laundering and abuse of power.

Meanwhile, Malaysian High Court High Court on January 16, 2024 heard arguments from Daim Zainuddin’s lawyers and government prosecutors over a suit filed by the former politician’s family for an order to compel the agency to halt all investigations against them, lift the seizure of Ilham Tower and return all documents and material that have been seized during the course of the probe.

Tommy Thomas, Malaysia’s former Attorney General who is representing Daim’s family, argued that the former politician was being subjected to an investigation under laws that were formulated after he had retired as a public official.

“Furthermore, Daim is already 85, and he may not remember events of 25 to 26 years ago, and this is unfair and may prejudice him”, Thomas said.

Senior federal counsel Liew Horng Bin protested, arguing that there was no statutory limitation for the investigating authorities to investigate a purported crime and a ruling in Daim’s favor would open the flood gates to halt other ongoing investigations.

On the case of Daim Zainuddin South China Morning Post in a report said, a freeze order issued by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the assets and properties owned by former finance minister Daim Zainuddin and his family is not amenable to a judicial review, the High Court was told.

Senior Federal Counsel (SFC) Shamsul Bolhassan submitted that the issuance of a freezing order, like the rest of the discretionary powers afforded to law enforcement agencies, was part and parcel of a criminal investigation process.

He said the courts had upheld time and time again that such exercises of function or power were not amenable to judicial review, and there were many law authorities on this matter.

Daim’s application for leave for judicial review, if allowed, would hamper the investigation process, Shamsul said.

“For every investigation, a judicial review would be filed, hence the investigation would not be completed.

“We submit that investigative powers cannot be reviewed by this court”, he said.

Meanwhile, Malay Mail in a report said, Daim Zainuddin’s meeting with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on January 15, 2024 to record his statement about the sources of his wealth, was postponed after the 85-year-old was hospitalized.

According to Free Malaysia Today, on January 10, MACC quizzed Daim’s wife Naimah Khalid and their two sons to provide information on assets belonging to the family.

In a statement later, MACC said a notice was served on Daim under Section 36(1)(a) of the MACC Act 2009 on June 7, 2023. His family members were served notices under Sections 36(1)(b) of the same Act.

MACC said its investigation into Daim began in February 2023 and was based on information from the Pandora Papers leak, which linked several prominent Malaysians to offshore tax havens.

Malaysian newspaper The Star said, Daim is seeking a declaration that even if any charges are instituted against him and family, such charges would be unconstitutional and void because they would not receive a fair trial.

Another Malaysian newspaper New Strait Times has also provided detailed information MACC’s ongoing investigation against Daim Zainuddin.

It may be mentioned here that, leaked records from a Cayman Islands financial services firm shed light on the ZA Star Trust, created by Daim’s wife in 2010. As of 2020, the trust held assets worth US$52.5 million, with investments in three British Virgin Islands companies. Two of these companies own prime properties in London, including an eight-floor office building acquired in 2014 for US$50.8 million. Additionally, the trust indirectly owns shares in nine entities across Delaware and Massachusetts, involved in various commercial and residential real estate ventures.

The financial statements of ZA Star Trust also reveal a US$47 million loan from an entity called Adam Zeta Trust. However, the ownership of Adam Zeta Trust and the timing of the loan remain undisclosed in the leaked documents, adding another layer of opacity to the financial dealings of Daim’s family.

Genesis Trust & Corporate Services Ltd., the Cayman provider administering the trust, designated Daim and his family members as “high risk” in compliance documents due to their connection with the former finance minister. The trust company, acquired by Jersey-based firm Highvern in 2022, is among the 135 trust companies operating in the Cayman Islands, a jurisdiction previously under international scrutiny for deficiencies in its anti-money laundering system.

Daim Zainuddin, often referred to as “the godfather of corporate Malaysia”, has consistently denied any wrongdoing. When confronted in 2021 about the Pandora Papers revelations, he claimed to have paid taxes on his investments and properties, dismissing allegations of impropriety. The MACC, however, launched a probe into Daim’s offshore wealth last year, suspecting a potential link to the misappropriation of US$480 million in state funds dating back to the 1990s. The former finance minister challenges the legitimacy of the investigation, labeling it a “political witch hunt”.


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