Thursday, July 16, 2009

(MY103) Ean Yong’s political secretary dead at MACC HQ

SHAH ALAM, July 16 – The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) controversial probe into several DAP assemblymen’s activities was thrown into more turmoil today with the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock at the anti-graft authority’s Selangor headquarters.

The 30-year-old’s death will put more pressure on the MACC, which has been accused by the opposition of conducting selective investigations.

Teoh, the political secretary of Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah, was taken in for questioning by the MACC yesterday at its 14th floor office in Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam.

MACC said he was freed but his body was later found sprawled on the roof of a five-storey building next door.

It is unclear if Teoh, a former journalist with Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh, fell or jumped from the MACC office.

Ean Yong and several other DAP lawmakers are at the scene now, including M. Manoharan, Gan Pei Nee and Teresa Kok.

DAP’s Ronnie Liu said the police has confirmed that the body is that of Teoh. He added that he does not understand how this could have happened.

[Forensic investigators examine the body of Teoh Boon Hock for clues. Teoh was found dead next to the MACC’s office today, after being taken in for questioning yesterday.]

Forensic investigators examine the body of Teoh Boon Hock for clues. Teoh was found dead next to the MACC’s office today, after being taken in for questioning yesterday.
At a press conference, the MACC director of investigations Datuk Mohd Shukri Abdul said Teoh was questioned from 5pm yesterday to 3.45am and was released soon after.

However, Teoh apparently said he was tired and so he rested on a settee in the lobby. He was seen sleeping on the settee at 6am.

At about 1.30pm, Shukri said, they heard that a body had been found on the 5th floor of the adjacent building and when one of the MACC officers went to investigate, he realised it was one of their witnesses.

Shukri said Teoh was not a suspect but was questioned as part of their investigations into the misuse of state allocations.

Police have not allowed anyone to view Teoh’s body, which has still not been removed at 6.30pm, when his brother was at the scene.

In an immediate reaction, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang expressed shock and asked in his twitter account, “Is there now the first case of death in custody, not police but MACC? If so, heads must roll!”

The DAP leader is in Penang and said he was waiting for a full report about the tragedy.

“What has this country come to?” he asked, adding later he and other Pakatan Rakyat leaders will meet the MACC on Friday for an explanation.

According to Kit Siang, Teoh, an Alor Gajah boy, was to register his marriage tomorrow.

Kit Siang also confirmed he and Anwar will meet reporters at the MACC building in Shah Alam at 10am Friday.

Teoh was taken in for questioning yesterday after MACC officers raided Ean Yong’s office in the State Secretariat as they were investigating complaints about the failure of state allocations to reach the people.

Selangor State Assembly Speaker Teng Chang Khim weighed in by saying the MACC is responsible for the incident.

His lawyer M Manoharan, who accompanied Teo to the MACC office yesterday, said the deceased looked normal and showed no signs of being under stress.

“He was happy and looked composed. I had advised him how to handle the interrogation as I was not allowed in during questioning,” he said.

Manoharan, who is the Kota Alam Shah assemblyperson, last saw Teo at around 7pm yesterday.

Ean Yong said it was highly unlikely Teoh took his own life since he was due to register his marriage tomorrow.

"Furthermore, there was no reason for him to linger (after the interrogation) because his car was here," he added.

Selangor executive councillor Elizabeth Wong expressed shock over Teoh’s death and added to the chorus that MACC was responsible for it.

“This tragic incident is another reminder of the recklessness of supposedly public institutions like the MACC in pursuing the goals of their political masters,” she said in a statement.

Wong said MACC investigations director Datuk Mohd Shukri Abdul’s explanation flew in the face of logic, adding that the authority should operate within acceptable guidelines when conducting interrogations.

“Even the police stops interrogating suspects at 6pm. Did the MACC think it holds powers greater than the PDRM when it interrogated Teoh from 5pm to 4am the next day?” she asked.

She said the incident has prompted her not to allow her staff to be questioned by the MACC unless accompanied by legal counsel, adding the police should also seal the office for investigations.

“ Datuk Mohd Shukri … should save whatever honour he and the MACC have left by resigning,” said the Bukit Lanjan assemblywoman.

In a statement, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the MACC must bear full responsibility for this death as Teoh was in their custody at the time.

“MACC should stop its political persecution of PR, especially DAP leaders and members, that does not serve the interest of fighting corruption or justice,” he said. “Such political games have caused the loss of life of a bright young idealistic DAP member.”

“There must be a full investigation on how he died. Unless MACC can clear its name, the public may suspect that Teoh was mistreated and MACC had a hand in his sudden death. There must be full transparency and accountability.

“DAP extends its condolences to Teoh’s family for this tragic loss and assures them that all steps will be taken to ensure that the culprits or those responsible be punished.”

Sekinchan assemblyman Ng Swee Lim, who was weeping openly at the press conference, said he had wanted to take Teoh for seafood yesterday.

Meanwhile, PKR vice president K. Sivarasa calls this a “death in suspicious circumstances.”

PKR assemblyman Xavier Jeyakumar is questioning why a normal young man would want to kill himself over being questioned about state allocations. A vigil is now being organised for Teoh outside the MACC office from 8.30pm tonight.

(MY102) NH man charged 23 quadrillion dollars for smokes

MANCHESTER, N.H. – A New Hampshire man says he swiped his debit card at a gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes and was charged over 23 quadrillion dollars. Josh Muszynski checked his account online a few hours later and saw the 17-digit number — a stunning $23,148,855,308,184,500 (twenty-three quadrillion, one hundred forty-eight trillion, eight hundred fifty-five billion, three hundred eight million, one hundred eighty-four thousand, five hundred dollars).

Muszynski says he spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America trying to sort out the string of numbers and the $15 overdraft fee.

The bank corrected the error the next day.

Bank of America tells WMUR-TV only the card issuer, Visa, could answer questions. Visa, in turn, referred questions to the bank.

(MY101) Singapore central bank suffers S$9.2b loss

SINGAPORE, July 16 — Singapore's central bank said today it posted a net loss of S$9.2 billion (RM22 billion) in its last financial year that ended March 2009, badly hurt by a decline in global markets.

The loss compared to a profit of S$7.44 billion in the same period a year earlier, the Monetary Authority of Singapore's managing director Heng Swee Keat said at a press conference.

"The unprecedented global financial crisis has weighed heavily on financial markets worldwide, leading to severe declines in valuation across many asset classes amidst heightened market volatility," he said.

"MAS's investment was negatively affected by this crisis."

The loss in the last financial year equalled about 3.5 per cent of the central bank's average assets, he said.

"With the broad based upturn in financial markets after the close of the financial year, the valuation of MAS' foreign assets has improved and more than half of the losses have been recovered," he said. — Reuters

(MY100) 13,000 fake RM50 notes seized in Thailand

BANGKOK, July 16 — Thai police confiscated more than 13,000 pieces of fake RM50 notes with a face value of between RM650,000 and RM750,000 in Lopburi on Tuesday.

The money was found during a police raid on a former top soldier's house in the province outside Bangkok where authorities also seized weapons.

Police Col Akradej Pimolsri told the media here that police made the seizure following a tip-off that the former soldier was storing weapons in his house.

He said two suspects, aged 36 and 37, were arrested. They claimed they were caretakers of the house sited in a province where several army camps are located.

A Thai policeman said they believed the ringgit notes were printed in Thailand and it was the biggest seizure in years.

"Earlier there was information that fake ringgit notes were being printed in Cambodia. But now we have some information that they could be printed outside Bangkok," he said.

Yesterday, Thai police arrested a 36-year-old carrying fake US currency with a face value of Bt13 million at the Bangkok International Trade and Exhibition Centre here.

The man told police that he was a former police informant and was carrying the money for a police sting operation. — Bernama

(MY099) Australia's "worst case scenario" 6,000 H1N1 deaths

SYDNEY (Reuters) – As many as 6,000 people could die from H1N1 in Australia this season in a "worst case scenario" if no preventive measures or vaccines are found, Australian Health Minister Nicola Roxon said on Thursday.

The H1N1 influenza has killed 21 people in Australia so far and there are 10,387 confirmed cases, according to data compiled by Australia's health department.

"We could expect around 6,000 deaths across the country," Roxon told local radio. "That is the really worst case scenario that is being projected at the moment."

Each year a few thousand Australians die from influenza.

The World Health Organization has confirmed 429 deaths and 94,512 cases of H1N1, declared a pandemic last month. But these numbers represent only a fraction of the real cases.

Swine flu is the dominant flu in Australia this southern hemisphere winter and authorities say they have ordered 21 million doses of swine flu vaccine still under development.

They say that should be enough for half the 21 million population with multiple doses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says at least a million people have been infected with H1N1 and the virus is spreading out of control.

Disease control experts say the death rate from H1N1 is similar to the death rate from seasonal influenza, which kills anywhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally each year.

(MY098) Strong 6.1-magnitude quake hits off Papua New Guinea

PORT MORESBY (AFP) – A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea's remote New Ireland area Thursday, seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The epicentre of the strong quake, which hit at 06:10 am (2010 GMT Wednesday), was located 103 kilometres (64 miles) south-southwest of the town of Kavieng, New Ireland, the US Geological Survey said. It took place at a shallow depth of 19 kilometres.

There was no immediate Tsunami warning issued.

Papua New Guinea sits on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", where continental plates meet. The region is frequently hit by earthquakes