By Salahuddin Hisham
The year 1987 was when the employer transferred yours truly to the Hong Kong office and the biggest story of the year must have been Black Monday, the largest one day drop on Wall Street.
In Hong Kong, another big story was the sentencing of Datuk Hashim Shamsuddin, a former director of Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad’s (BBMB) Hong Kong subsidiary, Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF), for conspiring to defraud the bank of US$137 million and accepting a corrupt payment of HK$15 million.
Hashim admitted guilty to four charges of corruption and conspiracy to defraud involving George Tan, a Chinese Malaysian businessman and head of the then Hong Kong market darling, Carrian Group Limited.
The newspaper headline the day we stepped foot in Hong Kong was the decision by the court of appeal to increase the prison sentence against Hashim from four and half years to 10 years.
The primary incident to all this was the murder of BBMB assistant general manager Jalil Ibrahim, who was sent to conduct an audit of BMF Hong Kong in 1983.
We did not know Jalil but were only familiar with his residence in an area popular with Malaysian expatriates. There were many enjoyable memories there.
A television programme in 2011 mentioned that Jalil had met Malaysian businessman Mak Foon Than at a hotel before Mak had murdered Jalil, carried the body in a suitcase and disposed it at a banana plantation.
Police found an unfinished letter Jalil had written to his wife, confiding about interference with his work from above.
Following the decision against Hashim, then opposition leader Lim Kit Siang asked that the Ahmad Nordin inquiry committee be revived. (The three-member committee was headed by Auditor-General Tan Sri Ahmad Noordin to investigate fraud, improprieties and corruption in BBMB and specifically BMF.)
BBMB, through BMF, had overly lent to Carrian, with the loans totaling RM2.5 billion. Carrian had grown in a short of time to become a stock market favourite.
Consequently, BBMB had to be revived with a RM1 billion injection from Petronas. Carrian collapsed to default on many other banks too. BMF was the biggest.
By the time Jalil had arrived in Hong Kong, Carrian was ailing and facing cashflow problems.
In a 300-page report, the committee concluded there were prima facie cases of corruption against three former directors and three former officers of the Hong Kong subsidiary, namely former BMF chairman Lorrain Esme Osman, former directors Hashim and Rais Saniman, former BMF general manager Ibrahim Jaafar, former assistant manager Henry Chin and former BMF money market dealer Eric Chow.
The report alleged that the ex-directors, together with four of their relatives and the former BMF management, had received direct and indirect benefits from Tan in exchange for more than RM1 billion in unsecured loans.
Kit Siang raised issues against those highlighted during the trial – then prime minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, his deputy Musa Hitam and BBMB chairman Tan Sri Kamarul Ariffin, together with a reference to then Minister of Finance Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
[read in https://bibliotheca.limkitsiang.com/1987/01/17/dap-calls-for-the-revival-of-the-ahmad-nordin-bmf-inquiry-committee-to-specifically-inquire-into-the-three-irregular-transactions-highlighted-in-the-hashim-shamsuddin-case-in-hong-kong/]
Will Kit Siang reissue the same call made 30 years ago now that the CIA last week declassify documents relating to the BMF scandal? His current political friend Mahathir is mentioned in the report.
This July it will be 34 years since the day Jalil was found murdered. His two children are already of the age he left his family for the last time in Seremban to return for 10 days to celebrate Hari Raya that year.
The public outcry in Hong Kong back then was no more the losses incurred by banks but rather the financial cost to taxpayers.
The public wanted an immediate end to the case but the police and public prosecutor were still pursuing Tan, Lorraine and Rais. It became the longest case in Hong Kong judicial history and cost over HK$210 million over 17 years.
Unlike “that person’s” politically motivated allegation towards Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to call for his removal, 1MDB underwent through due processes and is still undergoing it abroad.
Ahmad Nordin’s committee recommended that the police and then Anti-Corruption Agency investigate further the irregular transactions and also issues highlighted in court. It was not done but what was done was a major media exercise to divert public attention.
Jalil was glorified as a national hero, a Malay warrior. He was posthumously awarded the Pingat Gagah Perkasa. But the motive behind his death remains a mystery till today.
In an interview with The Sun in 2008, Lorraine argued that Jalil’s death had no link to the BMF investigations. He fought extradition from a London prison for seven years until he finally relented and was sent to prison for a few months in Hong Kong.
Lorraine was a fellow board member in FIMA Metal Box with a former prime minister.
At the time Jalil was in the hotel room before being murdered, Tan was at BMF urgently requesting an assistant manager to release a loan with a letter from the BBMB chairman. Jalil’s last call to Chin was an instruction to not release the loan and wait for instructions from the head office. The call ended abruptly.
BBMB was established to assist ethnic Bumiputras by providing access to capital but instead ended up backing Chinese ethnic businessmen to be corporate players in a foreign market.
The gossip amongst bankers and lawyers at the watering holes in Lan Kwai Fong those days was that Hashim was appointed by the then Umno president to be part of an important committee involved with a certain Umno initiative.
A.… it must be intoxication from the drinks.