Wednesday, 15 May 2013

In memory of Jalil Ibrahim (2)

Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad (BBMB) in Kuala Lumpur
Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF), subsidiary of BBMB in Hong Kong
Petronas (Petroliam Nasional) in Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia has 3 dark spots in its history:
1. The May 13 incidences
2. The BMF scandal
3. Altantuya scandal


Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Bhd was incorporated in 1965. Bank Bumiputra was established in 1965, in line with government initiatives to increase Bumiputra participation in the Malaysian economy. By the 1980s, it had become the largest bank in the country in terms of assets. Its infrastructure provided access to banking facilities where there was none before, contributing to the growth of small-scale enterprises and assisting the flow of investment into rural areas. It was the first Malaysian bank to have operations in New York, London, Tokyo, Bahrain and Hong Kong. In 1982, it was listed as the largest bank in Southeast Asia by Asian Finance magazine - CIMB (
Jalil was found murdered. He had been silenced before he could blow the whistle to financial irregularities and dangerous liaisons which if revealed could destroy his bank and compromise his country. The banker knew too much. But what did he know?

18 years after it was established in 1965, Malaysia's largest bank, the Bank Bumiputra Malaysia Berhad (BBMB) through its subsidiary, the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance (BMF) was involved in the world's and this region's worst case scenario of fraud! The BMF scandal was the biggest case of fraud ever recorded in Malaysia's history, in East Asia history, and probably in the world to date.

Why would a Malaysian bank be involved in a fraud of this gigantic nature? Malaysia had just discovered oil and gas via its national petroleum company, the Petronas (Petroliam Nasional). Malaysia became rich from the oil money and had to find areas to invest its new wealth. So it invested in properties overseas. Where exactly? Of course, offshore and beyond - in Hong Kong in the case of the BMF scandal.

How come Hong Kong and not nearby, Singapore or Australia? We probably used the Chinese business men in Singapore to help invest our oil money in Hong Kong. Why Hong Kong? Our trade was mainly with Hong Kong since China was still closed to world trade. We were trading with Hong Kong ever since I was born. We had plastic toy soldiers, zoo animals, toy guns and plastic dolls, all made in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a British colony and it was safe to buy property here rather than in London which was dearer (but which Malaysia did much later).

Whom did we get to buy property for us in Hong Kong? The Carrian Group (chief was George Tan, a Singapore/Sarawak Chinese) was among the top 10 property developers in Hong Kong. But Carrian become super rich and was fast developing; BBMB stepped in to assist it with loans, not the ordinary loans but huge loans, never done before in financial history.

How did BBMB Malaysia issue loans to Carrian? We couldn't so we created a subsidiary in Hong Kong, called the BMF. BMF in Hong Kong was headed by Mr Lorraine Esme (son of an early Malay doctor). Things were fine at first and loans were issued as per SOP. But, when greed overcomes the rational mind, loans became dubious. Carrian was doing fine initially till it outdo its available funds and financial means. Without additional money, Carrian would collapse. Carrian wanted US$4mil in loan ASAP from BMF! Which bank in this world would ever give that much money freely to its lender with no collaterals and nothing promised or signed? Nobody! So why did Carrian press on and wanted this much money from BMF Hong Kong ASAP? It had to or it would go under (and it went under because Jalil refused to approve the last huge loan requested before he was found dead).

Jalil Ibrahim was a banker with BBMB in Kuala Lumpur and was based with BMF Hong Kong. As BMF auditor, Jalil Ibrahim was assigned to investigate dubious loans to the Carrian Group in Hong Kong. Jalil carried on with his work but he was troubled with the dubious loans to Carrian. Carrian was angered that Jalil did not approve their much needed loan. Jalil had to go.

Earlier on the day Jalil died, Mak Soon Than invited Jalil to a dubious meeting set up at his hotel room, the infamous room 609 in Regent Hotel, now renamed to Intercontinental Hotel. Jalil was with Mak for some 2 hours, discussing. A waiter brought in water as part of room sevice and saw the two men (only two men, not three). A note was made by the room cleaning personnel that a bath robe was missing its belt (the same belt used to strangle Jalil to death in room 609). Apparently, Mak had strangled Jalil to death in his Hong Kong hotel room in 1983, while Jalil was talking to his colleague Henry at BMF.

What did Mak do then? Mak left the hotel room to go and buy a huge bag to place Jalil's body. He stuffed Jalil in the bag and zipped it. Then dragged the bag down to the lobby with the help of a porter (a witness) and into a taxi (a witness). The boot couldn't close and the taxi drove Mak to a car rental. Mak left his ID with the car rental and hired a van. He placed the bag in the van and drove away to dispose of Jalil's body. Then Mak went into hiding (but MacKillop's investigating team found him). Mak jumped out of his 3rd floor window in a bid to escape, and fell onto the floor below, suffered a bit and was hospitalised. MacKillop's team investigated and interrogated Mak in hospital for 5.5 hours and obtained a 27-page write-up of Mak's confession and also taped whatever he confessed. But this evidence is missing today. Mak was photographed with a crutch.

Jalil's body was dumped in a village. He was found in the undergrowth at the edge of a banana plantation close by the main road, by an old lady who went on her daily routine on her banana farm. She alerted the police but they arrived late at night and managed to locate Jalil's body. Jalil had been dead at least 24 hours. There was no ID on him (no wallet, no passport) and the police didn't know where to start their search. Jalil had Chinese features and was fair. I have seen him when he was alive - he looked like a fair Chinese, very fair, and handsome too. The police found a Malaysian 10 sen coin in his trousers seam (first clue) and therefore all attention were focused on Malaysia.

Over at the BMF in Hong Kong on the day Jalil died, Henry was visited by two of Carrian's men, pressing hard for him to approve the US$4mil loan (which Jalil refused to approve). Henry was reluctant to approve a huge loan without Jalil being present and without approval from BBMB in Kuala Lumpur. Carrian produced a forged approval by BBMB for the loan (Henry disbelieved it was real). Henry called Jalil and that was the last of their conversion before Jalil was strangled. Henry put down the phone to attend to the to Carrian men (not knowing that Jalil was strangled). Jalil did not put down the phone - he was strangled!

BBMB had earlier reported a missing person from among its staff. Hong Kong police were aware and that helped identify the dead body as Jalil's. Henry went to identify Jalil's body in Hong Kong. Poor Henry!

Opposition politician, Lim Kit Siang (father of Lim Guan Eng) requested investigations into the BMF scandal. Dato Seri Mushir Ariff (eldest son of Sir Dr Kamil Ariff, an early Malay doctor in Penang) was appointed to chair the panel. Dato Seri Mushir Ariff later died of old age in Penang.

That BMF trial unearthed the worst of Malaysia and Malaysian business. Hong Kong investigated the case for 17 years (1983-2000).  Things stopped short of exposing Malaysia's big time bosses. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down 3 years after the trial ended, in 2003, and (Tun) Dato Seri Abdullah Badawi succeeded him as Malaysia's 5th PM.

All the big bosses involved in the BMF scandal were jailed for various terms. Mr Lorraine Esme recently died of cancer in London. Nothing is known about what became of Mak Soon Than, George Tan, Hashim Shamsuddin and Henry. It is up to them to tell us what actually happened. The various investigators can only tell us so much and help clear the air by explaining to us what happened but their story is fragmented too. There was a murder but the murderer is unnamed. There was a mastermind but he is unknown. How money flies here and elsewhere.

Back in Seremban, Jalil's wife Rusnawi was informed of the unfortunate death of her husband in Hong Kong. Rusnawi was my Geography teacher and class teacher in Form 4T and 5T at Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban in 1974 -75. She had just got married to Jalil and brought him to see us at our college. I remember the day he came and we all sat in a circle with him and our teacher. We never saw him again. News of his murder came on TV when I was already one month working at USM Penang. The news was shocking enough but at the time I didn't know the scale of the fraud and the devastating effects it had on the lives of others. I feel sorry that the whole scandal even occurred and of all things, affected my own teacher. I feel sad because my teacher lost her husband when she was very young. I still see that she suffers, her face tells all her grief. I have seen my teacher during happier times. I can also remember Jalil. It is indeed very unfortunate for something of this nature to happen.

Malaysia has not been able to curb its money losses to outside investments. Money drains like blackwater and nothing gets back to the rakyat. The average Malaysian today is quite poor compared to their counterparts in this region (vs Singapore). Without change in its political system and without Hudud implemented, nothing will change and money will still flow outward. What's special about Hudud? Hudud deals with industrial crime. The BMF scandal fits exactly in Hudud. There is nothing better than Hudud. Hudud will put even the biggest mastermind of the BMF scandal behind bars. Hudud was made by Allah SWT and not by any human. Allah SWT knows best. So we should be studying Hudud and taking it seriously so we don't repeat clandestine money losses as the BMF scandal.

Pics below are frame stills from the video in YouTube.

YouTube video of Jalil's murder in Hong Kong:


Anonymous said...

good article but sadly you are mistaken about hudud.
hudud is not a solution for financial crimes.
the people need to have some sense of shame and not blindly support leaders.