Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PKR’s Selayang MP William Leong are among Malaysian politicians whose names have surfaced amid some 11 million documents linked to entities using offshore tax havens to park assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Malaysiakini based on the stash of documents known as the “Pandora Papers”.
The documents, revealed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), also named businessmen such as Mahmud Abu Bekir, the son of Sarawak governor Taib Mahmud, Genting Group chairman Lim Kok Thay, former banker turned finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, Yamani Hafez Musa, recently appointed as the deputy finance minister, also the son of former Sabah chief minister Musa Aman, as well as the parents of fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low.
Malaysiakini said Zahid surfaced as part of a leak of documents from Panama law firm Aleman, Cordero, Galindo & Lee or Algocal, which acted for one Breedon Limited in the British Virgin Islands.
Zahid was named a director of the firm, which was established in 1996, the year he won the contest for Umno Youth chief.
The firm’s name was changed to Rising Resources (BVI) Ltd later that year, before it went dormant and was struck off.
Meanwhile Leong, the Selayang MP, was listed due to his links to a company known as Collister Holdings Ltd, of which he and his wife Alice became owners in 2009.
His lawyer Loy Tuan Bee told Malaysiakini this was related to Leong’s role as executive vice-president and COO of the Philippine National Steel Mill from 1994 to 1997.
He said all activities had been legally and rightfully conducted, adding that the company was not included in Leong’s declaration of assets as it was no longer in use at the time.
Zafrul was listed as the director of a boutique bank incorporated in the offshore jurisdiction of Labuan known as Capital Investment Bank (Labuan) Ltd. Malaysiakini, quoting an aide, however, reported that Zafrul is no longer in the position.
Mahmud Abu Bekir is listed through his position as director of BVI company Rondinmass Incorporated, a family-run business.
According to the report, the company was established to hold commercial properties in Seattle, Washington, purchased through a loan and worth US$35 million.
Jho Low’s parents, Larry Low Hock Ping and Goh Gaik Ewe, meanwhile, were linked to two companies, one of which, Coswell Corporation, was set up in the British Virgin Islands in 1991 with the couple as its sole shareholders.
Coswell was supposedly established for property investment in London. The other entity, Strategic Equities Ltd, was set up to hold shares in an industrial and precision machine manufacturer established in Singapore known as Frencken Group Ltd.
ICIJ, the journalists’ organisation behind the leak, stressed that it is not illegal in most countries to have offshore assets or to use shell companies to do business across national borders, although such revelations can still come as an embarrassment for leaders who may have campaigned publicly against tax avoidance and corruption.