KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 – Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein denied having sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States for any party, The Malaysian Insiderreported today. His denial contradicted an earlier statement made by Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi pertaining to the controversy surrounding the status of Malaysian gambling kingpin Paul Phua Wei Seng.
“Personally, I have never sent any support letter,” Hishammuddin told reporters in Putrajaya on Tuesday morning, the report said. Last Jan 15, Ahmad Zahid had said the sending of such a letter was not an issue as the country’s previous home ministers had also issued such letters to explain on matters in their capacity as the minister responsible for national security.
“The minister before me also issued a clarification letter based on the authority given to the position. That is why I signed the letter,” Ahmad Zahid had said. From 2009 to 2013, Hishammuddin was Home Minister before Ahmad Zahid.
‘DAP urged police to investigate’
Meanwhile, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo urged Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar to conduct an investigation against Ahmad Zahid over his ‘letter of support’ to the FBI. “I am of the view that it is Khalid’s duty as IGP to have this matter probed as it involves the credibility of his men.
“Whether or not any offence has been committed by anyone is yet to be determined, but since the matter is of public interest, an investigation is necessary,” Gobind said in a statement Tuesday. The lawyer added that Khalid could not afford to remain silent as he had previously been quick to call for investigations against others.
“Ahmad Zahid’s letter exposing details, such as Paul Phua’s identity and the fact that he had ‘helped Malaysia in national security issues’ may itself be an offence under the Official Secrets Act 1972. Khalid should show equal vigour in this matter,” said Gobind. On Jan 14, Ahmad Zahid had explained to the Cabinet of his letter to the FBI, which was apparently done without the knowledge of the Cabinet.
Ahmad Zahid had said, his letter to the FBI deputy director Mark F. Giuliano on Dec 18 last year was not to help free Paul, who is facing charges in the US, from prosecution but to clarify the poker expert’s status. Paul and his son, Darren Phua Wai Kit, are now under house arrest in the US and facing court charges for sending out betting information and carrying out illegal gambling activities in Las Vegas during the football World Cup 2014 tournament.
Paul, who is well known in the professional poker playing circuit, had taken part in the Big One For One Drop championship in the World Poker Series 2012. He was placed sixth in the European Poker Tour Grand Final Monte Carlo 100k Super High Roller 2014, and is suspected of being involved with the ’14K Triad’, a secret society and international drug trafficking syndicate.
Following his arrest, his lawyer from the legal firm Chesnoff & Schonfeld had asked Ahmad Zahid to issue a letter to Giuliano to confirm that Paul was not a 14K Triad member and that the secret society does not exist in Malaysia. Ahmad Zahid had also said his letter to the FBI was not on the request of the US government but the lawyer handling Paul’s case and that it (the sending of the letter was arranged through Messrs. Shafee & Co.