KUALA LUMPUR: Former Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) assistant governor Datuk Abdul Murad Khalid revealed yesterday that the central bank suffered US$10 billion in foreign exchange (forex) market losses in the early 1990s, far higher than it had ever admitted.
And what was more puzzling, according to him, was that no one was ever investigated or charged for what he described as the biggest forex losses in the world. The 64-year-old Murad, who left BNM in 1999, also shared “behind-the-scene” workings of the secretive Bank Negara forex operations.
He claimed there was no proper documentation of the huge transactions and that only a top central banker and a junior staff had a record of all the deals. Murad’s disclosures are set to cause a political stir and renew calls for a thorough probe into the losses, which occurred during the premiership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In a rare interview with the New Straits Times and Utusan Malaysia, Murad said the actual forex losses were US$10 billion, much higher than the RM9 billion as disclosed by BNM. He said the losses, valued at RM44 billion at the current exchange rate, were “real money that went down the drain”.
“The total losses were US$10 billion and not ringgit… our losses are in foreign currencies and not ringgit. “It means that our (forex) reserves in US dollar, British pound and Japanese yen all went down the drain.
“It disappeared just like that… This is accumulated losses over several years.
“There was no control. No internal control and nobody knew what was happening at that time.
“The most important thing is that there was no investigation at all.
“You lost US$10 billion, but there was no investigation. The police or the Anti-Corruption Agency (now the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) did not come. No one came to investigate,” he said.
Murad said as a central bank, BNM’s role was not to speculate in the forex market.
“It’s not the role of BNM to speculate. It should only intervene to smoothen the movement of the ringgit.”
He said the authorities should reopen the case. “They should and I’m willing to cooperate. The records are more than 20 years old and might have been eaten by termites… The dealings were done here.
“There are two things, one is speculation and another is reserve management. Reserve management is moving your assets. It’s a real thing and real assets… if you want to invest in Treasury bills, government bonds.”
“That’s the role of BNM. The real assets. But what they did was (pure) speculation.”
For the record, BNM’s actual losses were never revealed. Instead, the central bank, when put under scrutiny for its dubious activities, gave conflicting and confusing data, to make it difficult for the public to get to the bottom of the scandal. Murad said the truth must prevail.
“It’s a big loss, but there is no investigation. Bigger than other cases. Why was there a cover-up? The truth must prevail. “It is not easy to conceal a dead elephant… the carcass is just too big for the hole. We are not talking about a chicken.”
As at press time, BNM has yet to respond to queries on the matter. 1571 reads Bank Negara Malaysia’s role is not to speculate, and it should only intervene to smoothen the movement of the ringgit, says a former central bank assistant governor.