Targeted under BAFIA, Rafizi turns scope on its misuse
UPDATED @ 02:43:38 PM 10-09-2012
SHAH ALAM, Sept 10 ― Charged with violating banking laws for his whistleblowing, PKR’s Rafizi Ramli now plans to turn the spotlight on past abuses of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act (BAFIA) in fresh campaign that threatens to open up a can of worms over years of alleged corruption in the banking sector.
Rafizi told reporters today that his recent charges under BAFIA for his exposés on the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal had led to the discovery that previous violations by the banking sector had allegedly gone unpunished, despite the existence of the Act.
He added that this also showed that his charges were clearly “selective prosecution” by the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration in its bid to stop him and future whistleblowers from divulging further government wrongdoing in the future.
“We are compiling all these past cases and we will start a public campaign.
“So we have two parallel processes ― one in court, and at the same time, we will show the public how BAFIA was, in many cases, not used at all to protect the people.
“We discovered that there are thousands of people out there who actually feel victimised by the banks that have violated this Act,” he told reporters today after filing an application to quash his BAFIA charges.
Rafizi was charged on August 1 with violating the BAFIA when he exposed confidential banking details of the National Feedlot Corporation Sdn Bhd (NFCorp), the firm that runs the NFC, a RM250 million federal-funded cattle farming project linked to a former Umno minister and her family.
The charge proffered under Section 97(1) of the BAFIA stated that Rafizi had disclosed four customer account profiles detailing the balance summary for the NFCorp, the National Meat and Livestock Sdn Bhd, Agroscience and Industries Sdn Bhd and NFCorp chairman Datuk Seri Mohamad Salleh Ismail, to two individuals identified as Yusuf Abdul Alim and Erle Martin Carvalho.
Rafizi, who is also PKR’s strategy chief, said the charges were a “blessing in disguise” as they had led to the discovery of many abuses by the banking sector that have not resulted in court cases.
“BAFIA has been used selectively against us although its true objective is to protect public interest in the banking industry... but all this time, this has been neglected.
“Loans have been sold to people, mortgages and collaterals passed from one company to another... and in the end, some have even lost their homes,” the politician explained.
Rafizi said that in his investigation of these past cases, he has sat with many interest groups that have long been lobbying against such abuses.
The interest groups, he said, have been hard at work exposing instances of abuses by banks when handling private and confidential client information, but despite this, many cases were not brought to court using BAFIA.
“So this is going to be interesting because in my case, although BAFIA was used merely for the NFC matter, along the way when we checked, we realised that there are many other public interest cases that need to be paid attention to.
“So many in the past have felt victimised because although the bank violated BAFIA, the authorities did not take action,” he said.
At the same time, Rafizi said exposing past violations of BAFIA that went unpunished would help strengthen his application to strike out his charges.
In court earlier this morning, Rafizi filed an application to quash his BAFIA charges, claiming the prosecution was abusing its power to gag him from further exposes on the NFC scandal.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom later, Surendran said the application to quash Rafizi’s charges contained an accusation that the prosecution was using the case for the benefit of its political masters, “which is Umno”.
He added that it was against public policy to punish whistleblowers like Rafizi, pointing out that the latter was merely exposing the mismanagement of taxpayers’ monies in the NFC scandal.
“The law does not allow it; it is against public policy to charge a person for doing something good. It is not for public benefit to charge Rafizi for exposing wrongdoing.
“In general, we are saying that these charges are politically motivated,” he continued.
Surendran said the defence wants the judiciary to step in and state that it would no longer tolerate any attempt by any party to use the legal system for its own political benefit.
“This is also to urge (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Razak) to stop political prosecution against opposition figures by using the legal process,” he said.