Putrajaya’s anti-financial crime chief warns it will be ‘business not as usual’

National Anti-Financial Crime Centre CEO Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali says action will be taken without fear or favour against those who commit financial crimes. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
National Anti-Financial Crime Centre CEO Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali says action will be taken without fear or favour against those who commit financial crimes. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 ― National Anti-Financial Crime Centre (NAFCC) CEO Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, who once personally arrested his own friend in a corruption probe, wants everybody to know how seriously he takes his job.

“To me, business is not as usual, we are going to get the perpetrators, we are going to get whoever flouted the law, involved in wrongdoings; we are not going to compromise.

“I go hard against criminals... we don’t care, sometimes (if) our friend is being investigated, so if they commit whatever crimes, we are going to go against them,” the former third-highest ranked official in the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) told Malay Mail in a recent interview.

Mustafar said he will continue to have the same “no-holds barred” approach and act “without fear or favour” against financial criminals in his new capacity as the NAFCC head.

Mustafar said NAFCC will go after anyone ― whether they are in the civil service or private sector ― who commits financial crime, including money-laundering, kleptocracy, grand corruption and tax evasion.

Mustafar said the NAFCC will mainly focus on “high-profile, big cases” and financial crimes committed on a grand scale by co-ordinating enforcement between government agencies and analysing big data, while smaller cases can be handled by the respective enforcement agencies.

Dreaming of storing up massive unexplainable wealth through illegal means? NAFCC will go after you. ― Picture by Julia Chan
Dreaming of storing up massive unexplainable wealth through illegal means? NAFCC will go after you. ― Picture by Julia Chan

One level up

Mustafar said the recent formation of the NAFCC indicates the seriousness of the government, especially Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in cracking down on huge illicit outflows of money from the country.

The NAFCC will be one level up from the government’s multi-agency task force that has been in existence since 2011, and which was subsequently rebranded in 2015 as the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team (NRRET).

The NRRET was composed of the Attorney General’s Chambers, the police, the MACC, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department, Bank Negara Malaysia, the Inland Revenue Board (IRB), the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM), and the then Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK).

The NRRET was aimed at tackling smuggling, abuse of subsidies, illegal outflow of money and corruption.

With the NAFCC is to be formed via a new law, Mustafar said the NAFCC would enable a “new dimension of collaboration and co-operation” and would not be a mere administrative arrangement like NRRET.

The NAFCC will be placed directly under the prime minister with its duties and functions outlined clearly, and with its source of power to be derived from a federal law, he said.

As for the existing 16-member National Coordination Committee (NCC) to counter money-laundering where Bank Negara Malaysia is the secretariat, Mustafar confirmed NAFCC will not be replacing the NCC’s role as the two bodies are different in nature.

“I was one of the pioneers in NCC whereby Bank Negara is the chair and we are part of the team. But that is different, that is a co-ordinating committee purely on issues of money-laundering,” he said, explaining that the NCC monitors the implementation of Malaysia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism regime and ensures it matches international standards, among other things.

The other NCC members are the AGC, the police, MACC, the Immigration Department, Customs Department, IRB, the Labuan Financial Services Authority, the SSM, the Registrar of Societies, the Securities Commission, KPDNKK, the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Home Ministry and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

MACC officials (from left) Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull, Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed and Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali were given a royal sendoff at the MACC headquarters on July 29, 2016. Mustafar was then seconded to the Immigration Department. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
MACC officials (from left) Datuk Seri Shukri Abdull, Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed and Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali were given a royal sendoff at the MACC headquarters on July 29, 2016. Mustafar was then seconded to the Immigration Department. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Bringing over experience

Mustafar started his career by joining the MACC’s predecessor ― the Anti-Corruption Agency ― on March 20, 1985. He has always been deeply involved in law enforcement work with an emphasis on anti-corruption efforts.

Among other things, Mustafar ― who has a Masters in Criminal Justice from the University of New Haven in US ― has held the positions of MACC prosecutor, director of strategic planning at the MACC, the Malaysian Institute of Integrity deputy president, and his last position at the MACC was its deputy chief in charge of prevention.

Mustafar said he had 2,900 officers to oversee while in the MACC, but this number jumped to about 15,000 when he was seconded to the Immigration Department as its director-general on August 1, 2016, which exposed him to high-demand management work as a senior government officer.

“We need to address not only the job that we do, but of course the officers that we manage, especially immigration... we have officers all over the country manning high-risk positions and also immigration officers all over the world as immigration attaches, so that really birthed the capacity of me as the senior officer,” he said.

Mustafar says he seeks to instill the spirit of carrying out one's duties with passion and joy. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
Mustafar says he seeks to instill the spirit of carrying out one's duties with passion and joy. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

Going above and beyond

Mustafar’s last day as immigration director-general was on December 31 last year, which was when he received his transfer letter to helm the newly-set up NAFCC.

Although Mustafar was only scheduled to start on January 2 this year at the NAFCC, he got to work immediately by having a meeting at the NAFCC office with some of his staff on New Year’s Day.

“So on January 1, I chaired a meeting here with my deputy and some officers. I know it’s a public holiday, but they are willing to come because they know it’s our passion in carrying out our duty,” he said, noting that he too had done something similar when he first joined the immigration department.

Mustafar had chaired a meeting on a Sunday as the immigration director-general, a day ahead of his official clocking-in on August 1, 2016 which was a Monday.

“That’s why I said... people want our services today, we must prepare yesterday. If we prepare today, we are reactive. We must be proactive, when something needs to be tackled today, we must prepare everything yesterday or before that,” he said.

Since his days in the MACC and even during his more than two-year term as immigration director-general, Mustafar said he always stressed on a results-oriented approach.

“When we discuss, make it happen. Whatever being discussed and decisions made, make it happen; if not discuss and discuss, and after that, nothing happens,” he said.

“When Tun Mahathir assigned me to this position, of course he wants to see results; (there’s) expectation by the public because we are spending people’s money by having the position, our salary, our premises, so people want to see what is the outcome,” he added, saying also that high impact can be achieved with low cost.

While noting that it would be a very challenging task, Mustafar said he hoped to “make Malaysia a better place to live in by having people adhere to rules and regulations” and to not commit any crimes, especially financial crimes.

To read about the NAFCC’s strategy in tackling financial crimes, click here.

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