Anwar: Dr M said ‘don’t touch’ Nor over RM30b forex losses
UPDATED @ 08:51:25 PM 24-09-2012
By Clara Chooi Assistant News Editor
September 24, 2012
Nor has been identified as among those culpable in the BNM exchange scandal. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 ― Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim revealed today that it was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had ordered him not to punish Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop despite his role in the 1992 Bank Negara Malaysa (BNM) forex scandal, which cost the central bank some RM30 billion in exchange losses.
Anwar explained that his jurisdiction as the finance minister at the time had only allowed him to force Nor’s resignation from the bank and order for his removal from any involvement in the country’s financial affairs, whether public or private.
“Dr Mahathir ordered, ‘don’t touch him (Nor)’. The prime minister at the time did not agree with taking action because he said, ‘If we make profits, you praise him (Nor), when we make losses, you want to torture him’,” he told a press conference in Parliament today.
Anwar, who now leads the federal opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR), was forced today to divulge details of his role in the multibillion ringgit BNM scandal, which had taken the central bank a full decade to recoup its losses.
The issue was revived during Question Time in Parliament this morning when Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Bagan) asked the government to state the actual losses suffered by BNM in the foreign exchange market between 1990 and 2012.
The DAP secretary-general later stood to ask why Nor, who has been named as among those to blame for the losses, had not been punished for his role but was instead made the second finance minister under the Abdullah administration.
Nor is currently a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department within Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet.
Anwar explained that when he first took over the finance portfolio in 1991, BNM had never filed any report indicating that it was involved in forex trading to the sum of billions.
He said when the matter was first exposed internationally, he had sought an explanation from then-BNM governor Tan Sri Jaffar Hussein, who denied any knowledge or involvement in currency speculation.
“Jaffar told me he had no information, apart from what is being handled by Nor whose work scope evolves specifically around the forex trade and who has a direct channel to the PM and the Finance Ministry.
“Like what Dr M repeatedly said when he was PM, we are not involved in forex trading, except a minimal amount in order to protect the value of the ringgit,” he said.
“That is why, when we first debated BNM’s reports in Parliament in the earlier stages in 1993, we only read the bank’s statement that said these losses are under control, that they were only paper losses,” he added.
Anwar said it was then that he had, “for the first time in Malaysian history”, directed BNM to halt all forex trading activities, after it was discovered that the bank had recorded colossal losses in the foreign money market.
Anwar said although he was certain that Jaffar had no direct involvement in the matter, the latter moved to resign his post as BNM chairman.
“Since then, every year, BNM had to amortise, cut from the budget around half a billion ringgit to foot the losses incurred.
“There are estimations saying that the losses had run up to between RM20 billion and RM30 billion and I believe (current BNM governor Tan Sri Dr) Zeti (Akhtar Aziz) can validate that now because she is among those who believe the losses could be up to RM30 billion... BNM took 10 years to recoup its losses,” he said.
But despite the scandal, the veteran politician pointed out that Nor was later appointed by Dr Mahathir to be the finance ministry’s adviser.
When Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over in 2004, Anwar recalled that Nor was elevated to the position of second finance minister.
“Imagine, a person who caused the country RM30 billion in losses had his record deleted, his position restored and then promoted from an adviser to a full minister,” Anwar said.
He said he was “very certain” that BNM has all the records on the scandal that would validate his claims.
During Question Time in Parliament earlier, Deputy Finance Minister Senator Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai had dodged a question on why the government had failed to punish those at fault for the forex losses, pointing out to the that it had been Anwar who was finance minister at the time.
“If you (Lim) want to know more about this issue, its best you discuss it with your neighbour in Permatang Pauh,” he said, referring to Anwar.