KUALA LUMPUR - Anti-corruption officials are yet to acknowledge high-level requests to investigate allegations of graft in Malaysia’s halal certification department, the country’s religious affairs minister said on Wednesday (November 27).
“So far there has been no response from the MACC,” Mujahid Yusof Rawa told the media, referring to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
The requests follow claims published in Asia Sentinel earlier this month alleging JAKIM officials had demanded bribes to register halal meat handling and processing outfits.
The Hong Kong-based news portal’s report named a senior JAKIM official who was allegedly behind the scheme.
The minister also revealed that Mohamad Nordin Ibrahim, director-general of the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), sent a letter to Malaysia’s top anti-graft agency urging it to investigate.
Mujahid had earlier made a public request on November 25 for the MACC to look into the matter.
At the same time, the minister confirmed on Wednesday that “internal auditing” is now underway by JAKIM to probe Asia Sentinel’s claims.
The auditing is expected to be completed next month, Mujahid told the media following an event attended by Salaam Gateway in Bangi, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
“We want the report as soon as possible, to take further action if there is a JAKIM officer involved,” he said.
Salaam Gateway has contacted the MACC for comment.
Mujahid had earlier distanced his ministry from the allegations during a speech to accompany the soft launch of a Halal Academy in the capital, saying he took the claims “in a very positive manner”.
“I’m not saying that [these allegations] are not true because [they have not yet] been verified, but I hope with strong action we will continue to give assurance to people because we are committed to maintaining the quality of halal. All I want is to strengthen the halal ecosystem,” he said.
“[Nordin] has vowed to fight against corruption and shown his commitment by contacting the MACC.
“If there is found to be corruption, and this investigation leads to proof, by all means, [the MACC] must take action,” he added.
If the halal agency—or the MACC, if it intervenes—finds evidence of corruption, it will send further shockwaves across the international halal industry, which has been knocked by other graft claims this year.
Touching on the effect the allegations may have on JAKIM’s reputation globally, the religious affairs minister said even speculation damages the certification authority’s reputation. JAKIM is seen as the giant in the industry.
“There is always this parable they make: one JAKIM is worth eight certification bodies outside JAKIM. This is how JAKIM halal is respected, and I intend to keep it that way.”
This view was reflected by Jamil Bidin, who retired this year from his role as chief executive of the Halal Industry Development Corporation, the government agency charged with promoting Malaysia’s halal certification overseas.
Discussing the Asia Sentinel claims with Salaam Gateway on November 22, the former official said such allegations were highly damaging for the halal industry.
“We have been talking a lot about halal integrity. Something like this, if it happened, is very, very sad, because this is one industry where integrity needs to be put right at the top. It is an industry in which you are judged by more than KPIs,” he said.
Halal is unlike other industries that have been tarnished by claims of corruption, such as the automotive industry which has slowly been recovering from falsified emission figures in 2015, Jamil continued.
By the nature of its role to give assurance to consumers, and due to its religious roots, halal will struggle to shake off allegations of corruption.
“You have to do this job with the highest integrity because where does it end? If you don’t, you will damage the whole industry. You may never regain its credibility in halal. This is one industry where integrity is central and everyone has a duty to protect this.”
(Reporting by Richard Whitehead; Editing by Emmy Abdul Alim [email protected],com)
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