‘Stop pretending to be stupid’: Finance Minister roasts MCA for claiming RM15 million 1MDB funds were legal

Lim said the co-op was belittling Government efforts to recover the wealth stolen through 1MDB.
Reuters
  • The Government has frozen a bank account containing 1MDB funds belonging to Kojadi, a cooperative that gives out education loans to students.

  • The company is owned by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA).

  • MCA head Wee Ka Siong claimed the funds were legitimate, as the cooperative had paid taxes on them.

  • Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng roasted Wee over this claim on Sunday (July 14), telling him to “stop pretending to be stupid”.

Malaysia’s Finance Minster, Lim Guan Eng, has told off the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) for claiming that the millions in 1MDB funds it previously received were legitimate simply because it had paid tax on them.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is currently investigating the RM15 million (US$3.7 million) grant given by the 1MDB Foundation in 2012 to Koperasi Jayadiri Sdn Bhd (Kojadi), a public-listed loans cooperative owned by MCA.

The co-op – which was formed in 1981 to provide student loans for higher education – had an account containing these funds frozen on July 3 under an anti-money laundering act, Malay Mail reported.

On Sunday (July 14), the same publication also quoted Lim as saying that Kojadi had not returned its 1MDB funds to the Government, and was “belittling efforts… to recover (the) stolen wealth”.

This comes after MCA President Wee Ka Siong on July 11 claimed that the funds were legitimate because the co-op had paid tax on them, The Star reported.

Wee also claimed that Malaysia’s Cooperatives Commission had back then approved of the company receiving the funds in the form of a grant.

Earlier on July 4, Kojadi chairman Ng Peng Hay accused Wee of using his power as MCA head to “interfere” in the co-op’s response to the MACC investigation. Ng was subsequently suspended as chairman on July 9, Malay Mail said in a separate report. He has criticised the suspension as having “no legal basis”.

The latest comments from Finance Minister Lim have added fuel to the fire. According to Malay Mail, Lim said that Wee “should stop pretending to be stupid”, as paying taxes on laundered funds does not make them legitimate.

“No self-respecting democratic country in the world would allow you to whitewash laundered funds or sanctify illegal money as legitimate, merely because you paid taxes,” Malay Mail quoted Lim as saying.

“If not, then Jho Low or Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak can easily pay their taxes, and not fear any criminal prosecution,” he added.

Low – who is now a fugitive – and former PM Najib are two of the most heavily implicated personalities in the 1MDB investigation so far.

Earlier this month, Najib’s stepson, Riza Aziz, pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges in the 1MDB case. Riza, who co-founded the Hollywood company that produced “Wolf of Wall Street” is accused of receiving a total of US$248 million (RM1.02 billion) from the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.

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