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MKini: Swiss gov't refutes PM's claims on Perwaja
By Yap Mun Ching

29/3/2002 1:14 am Fri

Swiss gov't refutes PM's claims on Perwaja

Yap Mun Ching - 7:32pm, Thu Mar 28th, 2002

The Swiss government has countered Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad's criticism of its uncooperative stance with regards to the Perwaja scandal by revealing that its Justice Department had provided Malaysian authorities with information on two bank accounts.

The spokesperson of the Swiss Federal Justice Department, Folco Galli, was reported as saying in a German-language newspaper on March 1 that documents relating to a bank account in Geneva and another in Zurich had been given to Malaysian investigators last May.

However, Galli said Malaysian authorities have not requested for the accounts to be blocked.

Galli was responding to Mahathir's speech in London on Feb 26 when he reproached the Swiss for refusing to reveal identities of account holders.

Mahathir, during a meeting with students, had said the government faced difficulty in finding missing funds relating to Perwaja as the money had been placed in Swiss bank accounts and the banks were unwilling to testify in Malaysian courts about their clients.

He was also reported in the New Straits Times as saying that Swiss authorities, while admitting to holding some money, refused to reveal the identities of the account-holders.

Swiss envoy `astonished' by report

Meanwhile, the Swiss embassy today told malaysiakini that it was "astonished" by the NST report.

According to Consul Ulrich Schlaesli, the Justice Department had said it responded in a "fast and uncomplicated" manner to Malaysian enquiries.

Yesterday, the Malay Mail reported that Anti-Corruption Agency director-general Zulkipli Mat Nor, a senior federal council - the late Nur'Aini Zulkiflee - and a senior ACA officer met Swiss Justice Ministry officials in Zurich in May 2001.

Schlaesli said Swiss authorities have also received "thanks from several Malaysian officials for their speedy response".

Former Perwaja chairperson Eric Chia has been blamed for the mismanagement of the company which resulted in losses amounting to some RM10 billion.

Chia is also accused of approving the transmission of RM76.4 million to a Hong Kong-based company, which was later found to be non-existent while the missing funds were said to have been channeled to Swiss accounts.

Chia was personally appointed by Mahathir in 1988 to helm the national steel company and turn it into a profit making industry.