KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia on Monday charged a former finance minister for failing to comply with a notice to declare assets under the country’s anti-corruption laws, amid a crackdown on graft involving prominent political and business figures.
Daim Zainuddin, 85, a key ally of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, pleaded not guilty. If convicted, Daim faces a maximum jail term of five years and can be fined up to 100,000 ringgit ($21,159.54).
Daim, who served as finance minister from 1984 to 1991 and from 1999 to 2001, entered court on Monday in a wheelchair and his lawyer cited health issues when asking for bail.
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who campaigned on a reformist platform, has vowed to tackle high-level corruption but has faced accusations of using the country’s anti-graft agency to target political rivals. Anwar has said he does not interfere in the agency’s investigations.
Daim was charged following an investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) into the former minister based on information contained in the Pandora Papers – a massive leak of financial records in 2021 that revealed offshore assets held by politicians and public figures worldwide.
The MACC last month seized Ilham Tower, a 60-storey building in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, as part of its probe into Daim.
Daim’s wife, Na’imah Abdul Khalid, was also charged in court last week for failing to disclose assets to the anti-corruption commission. She pleaded not guilty.
Daim has described the probe against him as a “political witch-hunt” led by the anti-graft agency and Anwar, who succeeded him as finance minister in 1991.
The MACC said last month it had acted independently according to the law when opening investigations against Daim in February 2023.
Anwar and Mahathir have been locked in a decades-long off-on rivalry that saw Anwar, a one-time protege of the elder statesman, jailed for charges he said were politically motivated.
Anwar was pardoned and became prime minister in 2022, after more than two decades as an opposition leader, vowing to combat corruption and focus on the economy. — Reuters