Call for new law on ‘beneficial ownership’

Senior legal practitioner David Siaw, who is also former chairman of Advocates Association of Sarawak, Miri Branch.

KUCHING: Advocates Association of Sarawak, Miri Branch ex-chairman David Siaw agrees with Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki’s view on the need for legislation to define ‘beneficial ownership’ to combat instances of corrupt practices which are under MACC’s purview.

“However, it would be inadequate and very limiting to just put another provision in the existing MACC legislation,” said the senior legal practitioner last Wednesday.

Instead, he suggested the enactment of a totally new legislation (Act) which allows a government authority to collect, record, and maintain information on the beneficial ownership of any business corporations or contractual transactions in a central registry and the obligation for disclosure of beneficial ownership by individuals together with heavy penalties for failure to do so.

Due to privacy concerns, he said that information gathered by such central registry on beneficial ownership could only be accessed by MACC, Bank Negara Malaysia, Inland Revenue Board, Companies Commission of Malaysia, and certain security agencies for catching culprits involved in illicit financial flows, fraud, tax evasion, as well as illegal scam monies and Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) activities aside from corruption practices.

“For example, the new legislation ought to cover all illegal monetary activities and commercial transactions as reported in the recent 1MDB financial scandal.

“Optimistically speaking, with such new legislation on beneficial ownership in place, this would make potential offenders think twice before involving themselves in illegal activities by using legal entities or legal tools controlled under their beneficial ownership.”

Earlier, Azam said Malaysia needed to have a law on beneficiary ownership on top of the existing regulations on beneficiary ownership introduced by the Companies Commission of Malaysia to fight corruption.