Malaysia's former leader accuses trade ministry of hand in car import scam

Malaysia's former leader Mahathir Mohamad has accused the trade ministry of involvement in an alleged scam to import foreign cars by paying low customs duties.

Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until October 2003, said Thursday he had noticed irregularities in the Ministry of International Trade and Industry's policies regarding imported cars when he was in office but couldn't do anything because but the ministry misled him.

Mahathir's comments are the latest salvo in what has become a bitter battle with International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz, once one of his closest associates. Faced with other allegations of irregularities made by Mahathir, Rafidah is now battling for political survival.

Mahathir claims that privileged businessmen imported thousands of cars by under-declaring their value to avoid paying high customs duties. This, Mahathir says, hurt the national car maker Proton, a pet project that he launched in 1983. Mahathir is now Proton's adviser, reports the AP. I.L.

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