Anti-corruption advisory board chairman Abu Zahar regrets peers’ dissenting media statement over Azam Baki share dealing controversy

Anti-Corruption Advisory Board chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang speaks to the media during a press conference at the MACC's headquarters in Putrajaya January 5, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Anti-Corruption Advisory Board chairman Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang speaks to the media during a press conference at the MACC's headquarters in Putrajaya January 5, 2022. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 ― Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang, who chairs the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board (ACAB), today expressed deep regret over a recent joint statement by six other board members concerning the share trade controversy surrounding the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Tan Sri Azam Baki.

Now under similar public scrutiny after clearing Azam of any wrongdoing last week, Abu Zahar told a news conference today that the six ACAB members had held a separate meeting among themselves in which he was left out, despite agreeing to a board discussion on the controversy.

Reading from a prepared statement, Abu Zahar gave a chronology of the events that transpired within the ACAB earlier this month that led to a rift within the board.

He said that on January 7, one of the board members, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, sent him a Whatsapp text that read: “The issue is getting hotter and hotter”.

“At 6:22pm, Datuk David Chua Kok Tee responded to Datuk Seri Azman Ujang’s text: LPPR needs to meet and discuss this matter urgently and come up with a clear statement to state LPPR position by early next week. Keeping silent is not an option,” Abu Zahar said.

LPPR is the Malay abbreviation for ACAB.

“At 6:27pm, Tan Sri Ismail Omar texted: Yes we’re meeting on 11th Jan. Need to address relevant issues,” Abu Zahar said.

He explained that he then consented to hold a closed door meeting, which was supposed to be held at 10am today, at the MACC Academy in Jalan Duta here.

“Suddenly on January 8, 2022, I found that all six members of ACAB had held a meeting among themselves in advance without informing me, and they had issued a media statement.

“I am of the opinion that the media statement made by the six members is deeply regrettable,” he said in the press conference.

Abu Zahar also expressed his willingness to undergo investigation for his role in the controversy.

The six of the ACAB members — Tan Sri Ismail Omar, Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar, Datuk Hamzah Kassim, Datuk David Chua Kok Te and Prof Datuk Mohammad Agus Yusoff — had in a joint statement, distanced themselves from his statement, adding that it was merely Abu Zahar’s personal view of the matter.

“Thirdly, as stated in the January 5 written media statement, the investigation into the allegations of misconduct against the chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki, is still open to be continued by any agency with authority, on the opinion and supervision from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC), and I and any of my other colleagues in the ACAB, I believe, have no intention of obstructing further investigations, if any, but rather encouraged, on the concept of the rule of law, so that the good name and integrity of the MACC will always be at the highest level according to the law,” he added.

Azam has been under public scrutiny in recent weeks over his acquisition of millions of shares in two public-listed companies back in 2015. He said in a news conference last week that the shares were bought by his brother Nasir Baki using his account.

At the same news conference last week, Abu Zahar said the ACAB held an internal inquiry last November 24 and cleared Azam of any wrongdoing, adding that all the shares had subsequently been transferred to Nasir in 2015.

This statement, however, was disputed by his Board colleagues, who said Abu Zahar’s statement did not reflect the decision of the board as a whole.

Separately, Mohammad Agus told The Star on January 8 that the six distanced themselves from Abu Zahar’s remarks as the share trading issue involving Azam was not at all addressed in the ACAB meetings.

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