Task force to probe BNM's RM31.5b foreign exchange losses in 1990s

KUALA LUMPUR: A special police task force investigating the losses of RM31.5 billion suffered by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) in foreign exchange dealings in the early 1990s has to date recorded statements from 27 individuals since a police report was lodged by the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) on the matter on Nov 30 last year.

Federal police commercial crimes investigations department director Commissioner Datuk Amar Singh said yesterday that those who were interviewed are 19 Bank Negara staff, five Ministry of Finance staff and three other individuals.

He said the alleged offences are being investigated for criminal breach of trust by a public servant and cheating under Section 409, 418 and 419 of the Penal Code.

Amar said the main focus of the investigations is to ascertain:

- whether there were elements of deliberate concealment of facts and information to cover-up the losses suffered by BNM in forex trading in 1992, 1993 and 1994.

- whether there were misleading statements made to the Cabinet, Parliament and public regarding the true financial affairs of BNM and actual losses suffered by BNM in forex dealings with an intention to induce the Cabinet to approve BNM's annual accounts for it to be gazetted and laid before Parliament.

- whether anyone was intentionally aided by any illegal ommission to conceal the actual losses.

- whether the transfers and selling of the shares of Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TMB), Malaysian Airlines System Berhad (MAS) and Malaysian International Shipping Corporation (MISC) which belonged to the Ministry of Finance Incorporated was carried out "discreetly" to BNM in 1993 to absorb part of losses suffered by the central bank in forex dealings for the purpose of concealing the said forex loses and to bolster the BNM balance sheet.

Asked when police expect to conclude the probe and if there was a targeted time frame for the completion, Amar Singh said: "It is very difficult to put a time frame as it took place a long time ago but it is a massive investigation and we are obtaining documents from the relevant agencies. Our probe is ongoing and will be intensified when we call up relevant witnesses and obtain more documents from the agencies concerned to complete investigations as soon as possible. When it is concluded, we will refer the probe papers to the Attorney-General Chambers with our recommendations for further action. We assure that the probe will be carried out professionally and in a fair manner in accordance with relevant laws."

Former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad was called up in mid-December last year to have his statement recorded.

A five-man RCI was tasked to conduct an inquiry on the losses in July last year.

RCI secretary Datuk Dr Yusof Ismail, who is director of the Finance Ministry's Strategic Investment Division, had lodged a report at Putrajaya police headquarters on Nov 30 to get the police to initiate an official investigation into the matter.