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Pandora Papers: Former Malaysia finance minister says investments are legitimate in response to media report

Pandora Papers: Former Malaysia finance minister says investments are legitimate in response to media report
Daim Zainuddin in an interview with CNA as chairman of Council of Eminent Persons in October 2018.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian finance minister Daim Zainuddin maintained that his business dealings, as revealed in the leaked Pandora Papers, were legitimate. 

News portal Malaysiakini reported on Monday (Oct 4) that the documents showed the companies and trusts held by Mr Daim's children, wife or known business associates were worth at least £25 million (RM141.6 million).  

In response to the article, Mr Daim said he was a “successful and wealthy” businessman long before he entered politics and that taxes have been fully paid for his businesses and income. 

“Be that as it may, and what bears repeating, is that I was a successful and wealthy businessman long before I entered politics, and this has been sufficiently documented,” said Mr Daim.

“Business was my first love, and politics was national service. After retiring from politics, I returned to business,” he said.

The so-called Pandora Papers investigation is based on leaked confidential records of 14 offshore service providers which assist wealthy individuals and corporations seeking to incorporate shell companies, trusts, foundations and other entities in low- or no-tax jurisdictions.

Thirty-five current and former leaders were among politicians, billionaires, celebrities, royal family members and others around the world featured in the vast trove of documents analysed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). 

In its report, Malaysiakini said Singapore was one of the top five countries used by wealthy individuals in the region to funnel their wealth to locations with low-tax regimes.

According to the documents sighted by the portal, Mr Daim’s sons, Muhammed Amir Zainuddin Daim and Muhammed Amin Zainuddin Daim, were named shareholders of a British Virgin Islands (BVI) firm Newton Invest & Finance Limited (BVI) in 2007 when they were nine and 12 respectively.

“By 2017, when the brothers were in their early 20s, they were owners of several offshore firms set up in tax havens, including Splendid International Ltd (BVI) which held London properties worth £12 million (about RM65 million at 2017 exchange rates),” reported Malaysiakini.

Besides the two BVI firms, the brothers and their mother were also shareholders in several other offshore companies which hold properties in London, according to the report. 

Another example of offshore assets linked to Mr Daim was a British company in which his daughter Aslinda Daim-Pan was cited as a director.

Malaysiakini also reported that Ms Josephine Premla Sevaretnam, a former lawyer and deputy public prosecutor who served alongside Mr Daim in the service, held key positions in his various ventures.

These included the Swiss bank ICB Banking Group, which Mr Daim owns 74.4 per cent, as well as Newton Invest & Finance Limited (BVI) and Splendid International Ltd’s (BVI). 

Mr Daim, who joined politics in 1982, twice became Malaysia’s finance minister during Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister.

He first served as finance minister from 1984 to 1991 and was later asked to take on the same portfolio from 1999 to 2001.

Mr Daim was appointed as head of the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) created by Dr Mahathir after he became prime minister for the second time, following Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the 2018  general election.

TOTALLY UNPROFESSIONAL, MISSION TO SHAME: DAIM  

In a statement to Malaysiakini, Mr Daim described the constant media reporting on his business involvement as unprofessional and smacked of an attempt to discredit him. 

“The constant reporting and implying wrongdoing by innuendos and speculation are totally unprofessional and look like a never-ending mission to shame and discredit me,” he said.

He said he did not understand what was the motive on the part of Malaysiakini, adding that the issue of his involvement in business has been “hashed and rehashed ad nauseum”.

Mr Daim said that he has retired from business and setting up trusts for charity both in Malaysia and overseas were part of his estate planning.

He added that any trusts set up by his children were for them to decide, and he has no knowledge of them.

“My children are old enough to manage their own lives and I do not get involved; my eldest daughter is a grandmother," Mr Daim said.

He also claimed that not all the trusts mentioned in the Malaysiakini report were owned by him.

“There are many businesses here in Malaysia and worldwide with the name ICB, and I have no knowledge of them,” he said.

“The ICB that I owned had operations in over 14 countries on three continents and was successfully listed in London. I delisted it when I realised I was getting too old to go globetrotting and when none of my children wanted to take over,” he added.

Mr Daim said he has been in business for more than half a century since the 1960s. 

“I think some recognition should be given to a Malaysian who has successfully carried the flag for Malaysian businesses here and worldwide,” he said. 

Source: CNA/ih

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