KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 22 ― Putrajaya revealed today that businessman Michael Chia was never caught in Hong Kong holding large sums of Singapore currency as reported, in the latest twist to the saga over a RM40 million political donation for Sabah Umno.
“According to MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission), Chia was never arrested in Hong Kong... that is the MACC’s answer.
“And (Hong Kong’s) ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) never caught Michael Chia,”
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz (picture) said when wrapping up committee stage debates on Budget 2013.
The Padang Rengas MP explained that the RM40 million, which was allegedly meant for Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman, was actually frozen in an investment account in Hong Kong.
Nazri admitted, however, that he was not certain of the exact details but said that the money in the Hong Kong account was later meant to be transferred to an account in a Swiss bank.
“That is my understanding of the case,” he told the House.
The minister was replying to a question from Lim Kit Siang (DAP-Ipoh Timor) who had asked why the Malaysian authorities had not sought information from the Swiss government when investigating Musa for graft.
Lim had cited reports claiming that Chia was holding more money for Musa in a Swiss bank account.
“This matter raised about the Swiss bank account is actually the same as the one frozen in Hong Kong that was yet to be transferred to the Swiss account.
“Therefore when it was discovered that the cash was not corruption money but a political donation, so the question of seeking information from the Swiss government did not arise,” Nazri said.
Nazri’s disclosure today comes more than a week after the matter was first reported and several days after his first answer on this case in Parliament.
It also disputes previous media reports on the matter, including the first exposé that was carried by whistleblower website Sarawak Report.
According to prior reports, Chia had been arrested at Hong Kong International Airport and charged with money laundering after attempting to smuggle S$16 million (RM40 million) back to Malaysia in 2008.
It was reported that Chia had at the time allegedly told Hong Kong authorities that the money belonged to Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman.
In April this year, Sarawak Report revealed documents allegedly from Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency, the ICAC, showing that a Sabah lawyer was holding some US$30 million in a Swiss bank account for Musa.
The report also claimed that a paper trail showed that millions in euros as well as US, Hong Kong and Singapore dollars had been channelled from several firms managed by the Hong Kong-based Chia to a number of British Virgin Islands companies and subsequently to the lawyer’s Swiss account.
In Parliament earlier this month, Nazri revealed that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), based on findings by the MACC, had cleared Musa of corruption after it was discovered that the RM40 million in question was a “political donation” to Sabah Umno.
By Clara Chooi