January 29, 2019 marked an important milestone for Malaysia in its fight against corruption!
The National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023 (NACP), which aims to fully address governance, integrity and anti-corruption issues, was launched by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad on this day. With the vision of creating a corrupt-free nation, the NACP has three broad missions; namely (a) create a clean business environment; (b) improve government efficiency, transparency and accountability based on good governance; and (c) uphold the rule of law.
The goals are to achieve (a) ease in business dealings; (b) efficient service delivery in public service; and (c) professionalism and credibility in the judiciary, prosecution and law enforcement.
The NACP has 115 initiatives, six strategies and six priority areas detailing the government’s overall efforts to curb, combat and curtail corruption in Malaysia. One of the 115 initiatives is the establishment of the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NAFCC) to mobilise a multi-agency approach to combat financial crimes comprehensively and consistently. NAFCC chief executive Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said that a six-month period (from January to June 2019) has been set for the drafting of a parliamentary bill under which the NAFCC would be officially formed, and it would be fully operational by January 2020.
The NAFCC is tasked with fighting economic crime, particularly money laundering and corruption, by enhancing cooperation between different law enforcement agencies and the private sector both locally and globally!
By the way, the United Kingdom established a white-collar crime-busting unit, the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC), on Oct 31, 2018 with a staff of 55 and an initial budget of £6mil to tackle some £90bil in criminal money washed through Britain each year. On April 6, 2016, the United Kingdom had enacted legislation requiring every UK registered private company to create a register of “people with significant control”, and to make that register available to the public. Through the register, called the Register of Persons with Significant Control (PSC), enforcement agencies and investigative researchers would be able to identify nominee shareholders and directors, especially in cases where they are proxies acting for felonious groups and corrupt politicians.
If the Malaysian government were to introduce a similar law, all beneficial ownership data could be published as open data and companies would be required to update any changes to their beneficial ownership within a short period of time to ensure the register is accurate.
The agencies holding beneficial ownership registers collaborate with users to ensure the register meets the users’ needs, and robust sanctions are required to ensure effective compliance. This is to prevent another Panama Papers labyrinth, where some 1,784 Malaysians and local entities were identified as holders of companies set up for illegal purposes, including fraud and tax evasion.
Our NAFCC has to address not only these sophisticated labyrinths of deceit but also intensify collaboration with international law enforcement agencies due to the transnational operations of criminals and multi-jurisdictional nature of corruption.