MACC investigators are also dialling back to another cross-border corporate exercise involving the now-defunct trading platform called the Central Limit Order Book, or CLOB, and the takeover of a large conglomerate called Multi-Purpose Holdings Bhd, which at the time was controlled by a businessman with close ties to Anwar.
Both cases, which are now under the MACC’s scrutiny, directly involve Singaporean businessman Akbar Khan, a long-time Daim acolyte who is now a person of interest in the widening probe.
Singapore set up CLOB in 1990 after Kuala Lumpur banned the trading of stocks in Malaysian companies on the Singapore exchange.
Eight years later, the trading platform emerged as a serious loophole in Malaysia’s imposition of capital control to halt rampant foreign speculation on the local currency.
Just days before Mr Anwar was sacked from government in late September 1998, Malaysia imposed capital controls, set the local currency at a fixed rate of RM 3.80 against the US dollar, and banned the trading of Malaysian stocks outside the country. The move effectively froze billions of dollars worth of stock in 112 Malaysian companies that were trading on CLOB.
Mr Akbar not only won a lucrative concession awarded by the Malaysian finance ministry, which at the time was headed by Daim, to operate a lucrative concession to manage the return of the frozen equities that were estimated to be roughly US$4 billion. He also secured the blessing of the then-finance minister to take over conglomerate MPHB, which held stakes in banking, property, gaming and shipping.
Government sources noted that Mr Akbar, who currently controls one of the country’s top real estate entities, Bandar Raya Development Bhd (BRDB), is on the list of personalities MACC is set to call for questioning in the coming days and will be asked to make a declaration of his financial holdings. Mr Akbar did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.
ONE OF ASIA’S WEALTHIEST?
Daim is not listed in any catalogue or index of Asia’s wealthiest businessmen. But bankers in both Singapore and Malaysia believe that Daim, who served two stints as finance minister – from 1984 to 1991 and from 1999 to 2001 – sits in the same league as other Asian tycoons such as Robert Kuok and Li Ka-shing.
Apart from a handful of bank accounts, Daim’s asset declaration to the MACC included his equity holdings in the Switzerland-incorporated financial grouping ICB, which was previously known as International Commercial Bank.
It is a curious financial grouping with branches in Eastern Europe and Africa. When it began operations in the mid-1990s, ICB had branches in non-traditional financial centres, such as Prague, Budapest, Sarajevo, Tirana, Accra, Conakry, Dar es Salaam and Maputo.
Now, MACC investigators are discovering a hydra-like business empire, fronted largely by business proxies who represent his interest in dozens of private and publicly listed companies in Malaysia and abroad. Among the listed companies tied to Daim include property concern Plenitude Bhd, investment holding concern Langkah Bahagia Bhd, and Kejora Harta Bhd.
“Each day of the (Daim) investigation is a new discovery,” noted the senior government official involved in the probe.
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