9 September 2018

Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, Former Malaysian External Investigation Organisation (MEIO) director-general, was arrested at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters on 8 August 18 on charges of misappropriation $12 million meant for the 14th General Election.

On the same day seven civil servants, including a high-ranking officer from the research division of the Prime Minister’s Department, were also remanded for alleged misappropriation of GE14 funds. The spy-agency, which employs more than 1000 people world-wide, uses the formal name of the Research Division, Prime Minister’s Department.

Previously, Hasanah was in the limelight when a letter she wrote to CIA director Gina Haspel, requesting the United States’ support for the former premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in the 14th General Elections was leaked and went viral.

The MACC has so far recovered $6.3mil of the US$12mil that was brought into the country about three months ago, as well as $219,000 in cash. About $4.07m was seized from a businessman who is also a permanent resident of Britain. was arrested in Kota Baru at 11pm on Wednesday, 29 August 2018. The Star reported.

It is believed that Datuk Seri Hishammuddin may be investigated by MACC in connection with Hasanah’s case. In addition, MACC seeks to bring home three individuals believed to be involved in this case from Abu Dhabi. The MACC also wanted to locate two Saudi princes to assist the investigation. It is well known that Abu Dhabi and Saudi are not willing to cooperate in the 1MDB investigations.

This shows that there is very little accountability for election expenses. How can a senior civil service officer and a head of a government department get money for election expenses? How will a senior administration official who is linked to a political party make fair and impartial decisions. This is only one instance that has come to light. In many instances politicians put the money intended for election campaigns into their own pockets. They did not have to account for anyone as to how the money was spent. This is extreme form of corruption and abuse of public funds. It is necessary for the government to set up proper accounting system to control the election expenditure by the parties.

Umno’s assets are held in trust under the names of three nominees that include the party president. These trustees in turn used nominees and proxies who in turn had sub-nominees and sub-proxies. And this is why RM100 billion or maybe even more of Umno’s wealth has disappeared. Anwar Ibrahim claimed way back in 1998 that a certain ‘trustee’ walked away with RM60 billion while another cleaned out RM40 billion. There should be proper audit of party funds by independent auditors.

Malaysian election law set election spending limit at RM200,000 for each parliamentary candidate and half of the latter for each state legislature candidate. No one respects this law in Malaysia. Some countries, likes Belgium, Canada, Chile, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Poland and Slovenia have set limits on campaign donations and campaign expenses. The countries with limits on spending but not on donations are Austria, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

The problem with political donations is that the donors control the politicians benefitting from the donations. High election expenditure indicates buying of votes with money. Bribed voters are not concerned with the long-term prospects for the country but vote based on the immediate money they get for voting.

BN contested 222 seats. Based on the existing laws, the party would be entitled to spend $11 million on election campaigns. It is difficult to say how much the political parties spent on campaigns during GE14. But some guess that BN (Barisan Nasional) spent $5 billion. BN’s election campaign is believed to have been funded by foreign sources (possibly Saudi Arabia and China). Why would foreign countries give their money for Najib’s election? So obviously the money must have been roundtripped from Malaysian funds (SRC?).

In the case of Malaysia, although the election expenditure was high, BN did not win. That the voters who took the bribe did not vote for the bribe-givers. In the US elections too, Clinton spent much more than Trump and yet lost the elections. This is a lesson for politicians who think that they can win the elections with big spending.