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Amid widening graft crackdown, Malaysia’s ex-finance minister charged

Former Malaysian Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of failing to disclose assets under anti-corruption laws, marking one of the highest-profile cases in Malaysia’s crackdown on corruption involving prominent individuals.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has pledged to combat corruption, but critics accuse him of using the anti-graft agency to target political adversaries, allegations he denies.

Daim, 85, an ally of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad, is among those being investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for suspected undisclosed wealth.

Last week, Daim’s wife, Na’imah Abdul Khalid, was also charged for failing to disclose assets, while Mahathir’s sons Mirzan and Mokhzani have been asked to declare their wealth by the MACC.

Representatives for Mahathir’s family did not respond immediately to Reuters’ requests for comment, but Mahathir has previously criticized the investigations as politically motivated.

Anwar’s predecessor, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, was questioned by the agency this month as part of a probe into potential misconduct involving government publicity funds.

Daim, who served as finance minister from 1984 to 1991 and from 1999 to 2001, appeared in court on Monday in a wheelchair and was granted bail due to health issues.

He faces charges related to failing to declare assets involving numerous companies, properties, and luxury vehicles. If convicted, he could face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 100,000 ringgit ($21,160).

The MACC’s investigation into Daim included the seizure of the 60-storey Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur last month.

In a statement following the court proceedings, Daim accused Anwar’s administration of abusing its powers and neglecting promises of reform.

Daim expressed concern about the state of the country’s economy and the suffering of ordinary Malaysians, attributing these issues to Anwar’s actions.

Anwar’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, and the premier has consistently denied interfering in corruption investigations.

Daim, who served during Mahathir’s premiership, has been embroiled in a long-standing rivalry between Anwar and Mahathir. Anwar, once Mahathir’s protege, was jailed on charges he claims were politically motivated.

Anwar became prime minister in 2022, promising to tackle corruption and focus on the economy. However, dropping corruption cases involving individuals allied with Anwar’s coalition has raised concerns about his commitment to fighting graft and his reform agenda.

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