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Include anti-illicit trade, anti-corruption measures in Budget 2022, 12MP, says ACFE Malaysia

Publish date: Thu, 23 Sep 2021, 05:56 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: It is essential that the 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP), which will be implemented beginning with the Budget 2022, include comprehensive measures to combat corruption, which is the primary driver of illicit trade and other unnecessary leakages into the Malaysian economy.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)-Malaysian Chapter founder and president Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar said leakages from the shadow economy, particularly the illegal cigarettes trade that cost the government more than RM5 billion in uncollected tax revenue every year, continues to weigh down the economy and negatively impact the society at large.

"In addition, illegal cigarettes kingpins and cartels that are said to be known to enforcement agencies have yet to be caught and charged. Instead, they are getting bolder and more innovative in their operations.

"This situation is fuelled by corruption, and if left unchecked, the aspirations and targets set out in the 12MP will not be achieved," he said in a statement today. 

Akhbar Satar, who holds the professorial chair at the Institute of Crime & Criminology, HELP University and the immediate former president of Transparency International Malaysia, said corruption undermines social development, political stability and sustainable economic.

"What they do is scare away quality investors and decreases productivity that leads to a reduction in economic growth," he said.

Akhbar Satar brought up an example of how Malaysia's ranking and score in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index 2020 had dropped to 51 out of 100 points, placing us at 57th out of 180 countries.

As Budget 2022 is focused on improving governance frameworks and strengthening actions to protect and drive the recovery of lives and livelihoods for the people, rebuild the resilience of the economy as well as catalyse socio-economic reforms, Akhbar Satar recommends the government formulate a comprehensive framework to eliminate corruption in 12MP, starting with Budget 2022.

He said the government should also leverage on successful policies implemented in Budget 2021 to curtail further all illicit trade, including illegal cigarettes kingpins and cartels through the use of existing laws like the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA), Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA), The Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA).

Thirdly, Akhbar Satar said the government should empower the multi-agency task force with top-quality personnel to combat illicit trade.

"To date, the multi-agency task force has been doing a good job, but more cooperation between relevant law enforcement agencies is required to drive more significant results.

"In addition, joint intelligence and operations should be improved and carried out sincerely and truthfully," he said.

Lastly, Akhbar Satar said the government should also increase awareness and education programmes for public and private sectors of all levels on the perils of corruption to better the future of Malaysia and its people. It is everyone's responsibility to combat corruption and illicit trade.

"There must also be an avenue to provide a conducive environment that encourages the public to report any wrongdoings, such as anonymous reporting on smuggling activities," he said.

Akhbar Satar foresees illegal trade will expand exponentially in the foreseeable future.

Recently, prime minister Datuk Sri Ismail Sabri revealed that a total of 580,000 households from the middle-income group have slipped into the bottom 40 per cent (B40) category due to the economic fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This will further fuel corrupt practices by criminal elements to take advantage of the demand for cheaper products.

"Therefore, long term planning and comprehensive execution to stamp out corruption must start now," Akhbar Satar said.


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