Monday, November 24, 2014

On heels of NYT report, MACC opens book on politically-linked Chinese national in Bukit Besi mining deal

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 ― The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said today it will investigate a Chinese businessman with reportedly close ties to politicians in the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition had used his links to help his company profit from a lucrative iron ore mining deal in Bukit Besi, Terengganu earlier this year.

MACC’s head of investigations Datuk Mohd Jamidan Abdullah said the commission viewed the allegations seriously and will seek to meet with Li Yang, the chairman and chief executive of Chinese-controlled CAA Resources who had detailed his dealings with an interview with the New York Times (NYT) recently.

“The MACC views the claims made by Li Yang seriously… we will meet with Li Yang to get further details,” Jamidan said in a statement.

The MACC official also noted that the Li Yang's revelation that his “Datuk” titles were purchased was a serious allegation and an affront to Malaysia's monarchy.

“The allegations made by Li Yang can damage the reputation of the Palace where a middle man is taking advantage is likely to have tried and solicit money from businessmen.

“The MACC would take serious and stern action if it was indeed found that bribes were paid to facilitate businesses,” he said.

Jamidan added that the MACC had in the past charged and convicted those found guilty in such cases, citing one case where a contractor was jailed for five years and fined RM50,000 for trying to solicit money for the title “Datuk Seri” from the Perak palace.

Li Yang had recently told the NYT in a report published yesterday that with the support of national leaders and the royalty, “you can do anything you want” in Malaysia.

“If you’ve got these two to support you, then you can do anything you want, because the natural resources are all controlled by them,” he was quoted saying by the widely-read American newspaper.

The article went on to claim that the China national had paid for each of the “ruling party politicians” with indirect stakes in the mines to receive the “Datuk” titles. Each title cost him some US$100,000 (RM330,000).

The NYT observed that although such agreements are deemed as corruption by some groups here, Yang said he was just following what he believed was a common practice in Malaysia.

Adding to that, Yang’s company has also circumvented a requirement to prepare an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for its operations by erecting an eight-foot-high corrugated-steel fence across the middle of the site and calling it two mines, the NYT wrote.

The paper said that as the size of each of CAA’s “two” mines is below 500 acres, there was no need for an EIA approval from local environmental regulators.

With license in hand, CAA Resources is now clearing Bukit Besi, famously known as “Iron Hill”, which was once the site of the world’s largest iron ore mine.

In 1971, however, the mine was closed, reportedly due to depleting iron ore, bureaucracy and union troubles, and has remained somewhat idle for the next four decades.

But CAA Resources, having sidestepped local curbs, now sees potential in its “Iron Hill” investment, despite the plummeting global prices of iron ore.

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