June 17, 2014 / 6:16 AM / 4 years ago

Malaysia puts off plan to create tax office investment panel

KUALA LUMPUR, June 17 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s government has postponed until October a controversial legislative amendment that would create an investment panel within the country’s tax revenue agency - a proposal that has been criticised for putting taxpayers’ money at excessive risk.

An official withdrew the legislation on Tuesday after opposition lawmakers warned of potential misuse of taxpayers’ money because of the panel’s wide investment mandate, including shares, bonds and initial public offerings.

Deputy Finance Minister Ahmad Maslan, in a statement to the parliament, denied that taxpayers’ money would be used by the agency for investments, stating the bill would only allow the Inland Revenue Board to invest its own institutional savings.

If passed, the bill would have established a panel of which five out of the seven appointees would be chosen by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also the Minister of Finance.

The bill did not specify a limit on the amount the panel could invest.

The proposal was launched amid a controversy over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign investment fund, chaired by Najib and which is struggling under $11 billion in debt.

“The pressure put on by the opposition, the press and linkages to 1MDB-related investments has forced the government to re-evaluate its position to create what looks like another sovereign wealth fund,” said Ong Kian Ming, an opposition legislator. (Reporting By Trinna Leong; Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Eric Meijer)

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