Speech at 11th International Conference on Financial Crime and Terrorism Financing

SPECIAL ADDRESS BY YAB TUN DR MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD, PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA

AT THE 11TH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON FINANCIAL CRIME AND TERRORISM FINANCING (IFCTF) 2019
BUILDING TRUST AND TRANSPARENCY: COLLABORATE, ACCELERATE, STRENGTHEN
ON 5 NOVEMBER 2019 (TUESDAY), AT 4.00PM AT HOTEL SHANGRI-LA, KUALA LUMPUR

INTRODUCTION

  1. It is indeed a pleasure to be here and to share some thoughts at this 11th InternationalConference on Financial Crime and Terrorism Financing (IFCTF 2019).
  1. I would like to thank the organisers, the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers (AICB) andthe Compliance Officers’ Networking Group (CONG) for inviting me.
  1. I am sure that this Conference, which is into its 11th edition would have extensively coveredmost aspects of these financial crimes be it their nature, how they were committed, who thecriminals were and their modus operandi.
  1. However, such conferences have continued to be held and I am sure we can expect the12th edition will also be realised.
  1. The need for these conferences to be held continuously and regularly reflects the changingnature of financial crimes and terrorism financing. No matter how tight and comprehensivethe regulations we impose and introduce, the criminals seem to be able to find a way aroundit. We will have to respond through innovative ways.

GOOD GOVERNANCE AND INTEGRITY

  1. While we appreciate the insights and the latest development in dealing with the present daysophistication of financial crime and terrorism financing, the chink to the armour is alwayslinked to bad and ineffective governance due to lack of integrity.
  1. The theme of this year’s conference, “Building Trust and Transparency: Collaborate,Accelerate, Strengthen” resonates well with the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, whichcalls for better governance and integrity in our system.
  1. In fact, that is very much what the nation demanded for during the May 2018 generalelections – it is the people’s wish that the new Government would uphold good governance,integrity, to get rid of corrupt practices and abuses of power.
  1. These demands were the result of the manner the previous administration had conductedtheir affairs. They ignored these high values and in turn they were rejected by Malaysianswho could not stomach the blatant abuses of power and corruption.
  1. It is during that period that financial crimes were committed brazenly and blatantly withoutregard for all the laws and regulations. This was only possible because the highest powerentrusted to defend these laws was the very one committing them.

BUILDING ROBUST INSTITUTIONS IS A PRIORITY

  1. From that episode we learnt that putting in place these rules and regulations are insufficientto stop the highly placed criminals from committing financial crimes.
  1. Realising that, among the immediate measures we took to ensure that such acts would bestopped immediately are The National Anti-Corruption Plan 2019-2023, and the NationalGovernance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) which were set up to furtherdefend the integrity of the nation.
  1. They were put in place because we also learnt the painful lesson that corruption and abuseof power inhibits fair distribution of wealth, affects our economic potential and disrupts thefuture of our country. It erodes the strength and effectiveness of institutions and weakensthe trust of the people whom they were created to serve.
  1. Economic reforms cannot usher in Malaysia Baharu or New Malaysia unless they areaccompanied by institutional and governance reforms.
  1. We have executed various initiatives which include the on-going works on the new code ofconduct for members of parliament, the asset declaration policy as well the Bill on politicaldonations.
  1. Last month, the Government tabled the National Anti-Financial Crime Centre Bill inParliament. It establishes this Centre or NFCC, to coordinate integrated operations andcentralise information relating to financial and related crimes. It also proposed that theNFCC will take on a centralised role in managing seized and forfeited assets in the nearfuture.
  1. While new initiatives are being implemented, it is important to acknowledge the work of theNational Coordination Committee to Counter Money Laundering (NCC) which hascontinuously implemented effective national strategies to counter money laundering andterrorism financing.
  1. This strong cooperation between regulatory, supervisory and law enforcement agencies ispaving way for more deepened collaboration in other forms that bear effective outcomes.
  1. It is important for me to re-iterate, that while laws and governance frameworks play animportant part in a clean, transparent and accountable Malaysia, they can only go so far. Itneeds to be supported with the right leadership in both public and private sectors in orderto ensure that this reinforced culture of integrity will be a new norm in Malaysia.
  1. We once stood shoulder to shoulder with growing Asian economies. Rampant corruptionand greed have led us to lose our way. This must not happen again. Our reputation hadbeen diminished and discredited. We need to regain our reputation and credibility in theeyes of the world.

FIGHTING FINANCIAL CRIME IS A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

  1. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows an increase in the level of public confidence in thegovernment from 46% in 2018 to 60% in 2019. Malaysia also rose three steps from 7thplace in 2016 to 4th in 2018, out of 12 Asia Pacific countries in the Corporate GovernanceWatch Report.
  1. While these are highly commendable improvements, it is ultimately the people who willdecide Malaysia’s fate. To put it bluntly, Malaysia Baharu cannot happen if we do not shedand remove old mentality that compromised and tolerated corrupt practices.
  1. I used to say that previously, when corruption was an “under the table” act, it was a scourgeto our nation’s future. But the last few years, saw corruption becoming an “over the table”act, being committed openly by the top leaders. Others will then do the same without fear.
  1. From an act viewed with disgust, it became acceptable and, before long, those not into itwould be considered stupid. It reached a level of almost becoming a lifestyle and that waswhen cash was ushered in and heralded as the new King.
  1. Without decisive shifts in the behaviour and expectations of Malaysians in favour oftransparency and accountability, our efforts to achieve the Shared Prosperity Vision will fail.

CURBING FINANCIAL CRIMES, A RESPONSIBILITY OF ALL

  1. Everyone needs to play their part against financial crime so that Malaysia can transforminto a value-driven developed nation. Shared prosperity can only be achieved throughshared responsibility. Thus, the private institutions and rakyat have a vital role to play aswell in preserving the integrity of Malaysia’s financial system.
  1. I am indeed encouraged to learn that the Public-Private Partnership Initiative or the PPPwill be launched today. The PPP is a collaboration and cooperative initiative between BankNegara Malaysia, Suruhanjaya Sekuriti, law enforcement agencies and financial institutionsto better combat financial crimes.
  1. PPPs promote synergy in Anti-Money Laundering or Countering Financing of Terrorismmeasures. This is achieved through effective, timely and seamless sharing of financialintelligence from financial institutions for the purpose of crime prevention and lawenforcement. Its more effective detection of suspicious transactions by financial institutionsand other reporting institutions would go a long way to eradicate financial crimes.
  1. A key component of PPP models throughout the world is the emphasis on personal dataprotection and confidentiality, benchmarked against the European Union General DataProtection Regulation (GDPR). For Malaysia’s PPP, law enforcement and financialinstitutions would continue to adhere to Malaysia’s data protection legal framework incombating financial crimes.
  1. I believe such noble effort need to be strengthened and expanded further to allow moreparties especially the public at large to exercise their responsibility in fighting againstcorruption and financial crime. Apart from that, continuous enhancement should also bedone holistically.
  1. Therefore, we need to continuously work in building these critical elements of trust andtransparency, through open dialogues and collaboration among the relevant players,accelerate reforms and strengthen institutions, policies and legal frameworks.
  1. This will ultimately enable Malaysia to effectively play its role in the global fight againstfinancial crime and terrorism financing. We must be persistent and remain focus indelivering this agenda.
  1. Only then can we stand tall with pride – as a nation of integrity.

Thank You.

 

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