Malaysian Bank Files Police Reports on Suspended Economist

Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd., the country’s oldest Shariah-compliant lender, said it filed two police reports against Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin, who it suspended as chief economist last week.

Azrul, a member of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party, was suspended on Jan. 14 after allegedly breaching the bank’s internal policies. Bank Islam, part of BIMB Holdings Bhd., said in a statement last week that it was conducting an internal investigation.

“The bank discovered evidence of other violations which warranted us to make a police report on Jan. 18,” the Kuala Lumpur-based lender said in an e-mailed statement, without giving details. “Upon further investigations, the bank lodged a second police report today.”

Azrul predicted in a Singapore forum this month that Prime Minister Najib Razak, who must dissolve parliament by April 28 for polls, could narrowly lose Malaysia’s general election as one of three possible scenarios, the Straits Times reported Jan. 11. Najib’s National Front coalition is seeking to hold on to power after ruling Malaysia since independence in 1957.

“I cannot see why this matter is now being turned into a police case,” Azrul said in an e-mailed statement today, adding that he is seeking legal advice. “This heavy-handedness is nothing but an intimidation and harassment tactic against me.”

The allegations don’t constitute any criminal offenses and are at most a civil matter, he said.

More than 100 civil organizations, academics and activists issued a joint petition on Jan. 17 defending Azrul’s political analysis at the forum and demanding his reinstatement.

“The bank wishes to reiterate that his suspension is totally unrelated to the contents of the paper he presented at the regional economic conference in Singapore,” Bank Islam said in today’s statement.

In the last election in 2008, the governing parties lost the two-thirds majority in Parliament they had held for four decades. Anwar’s opposition alliance currently controls four out of the country’s 13 states, including Selangor and Penang.

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