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Daim Zainuddin’s Wealth Is Everyday Kedai Kopi Conversation, But How Did He Get There?

Daim Zainuddin’s Wealth Is Everyday Kedai Kopi Conversation, But How Did He Get There?

Tun Daim Zainuddin started his career as a lawyer before venturing in the world of business and politics.

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On December 2023, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized the 60-storey Ilham Tower that reportedly belonged to Tun Daim Zainuddin and his family under Section 38(1) of the MACC Act 2009, which deals with the seizure of immovable property.

MACC chief Tan Sri Azam Baki said Daim is being probed for alleged corruption and money laundering. Daim has since said the charge was a political witch hunt. He denied any corrupt act or wrongdoing.

MACC has also summoned Daim’s wife, Toh Puan Naimah Khalid, and their two sons for questioning today (10 January) in Putrajaya.

Naimah rubbished the claims and said her husband was a very successful businessman before he joined the government in 1984.

She claimed her husband’s success is now being used as an excuse in a campaign of disinformation and misperception to tarnish his reputation.

Tun Daim Zainuddin. Image: Choo Choy May/ Malay Mail

Who is Tun Daim Zainuddin and how did he get super rich?

Daim is the youngest of 13 siblings. Hailing from Alor Setar, Kedah, Daim started his career as a lawyer. He was called to the English Bar in 1959 when he was 21 years old.

When he returned to Malaysia, he joined Pillai & Co. and later Shearn Delamore, which was then the largest law firm in Kuala Lumpur.

In 1961, he moved to Kota Bharu, Kelantan, and worked while under the tutelage of Wan Mustaffa Wan Ali, who was legal adviser to the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PMIP), which later became known as Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).

After his stint in Kota Bharu, he joined the Malaysian civil service as a magistrate. He became the president of the Sessions Court in Johor and later, the deputy public prosecutor in Ipoh, Perak.

He resigned from service in 1965 but returned to Kuala Lumpur to join the law firm of Allen & Gledhill. He resigned again in 1968 to open his law practice at Daim & Gamany.

In 1969, he ventured into business. Daim wasn’t afraid to take risks. While he was successful in many business ventures, he was also no stranger to failure.

His first business venture in salt production in Kuala Selangor was a bust. However, he pivoted to land and property development in 1971 and formed a company, Syarikat Maluri Sdn Bhd with two partners.

The company bought and developed Taman Bukit Maluri, Kepong, and Daim became the first-full-fledged Malay property developer in Kuala Lumpur.

In the same year, Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak introduced the ambitious and controversial New Economic Policy, which benefited Daim’s company.

His next venture into plastics production was another bust. Fortunately, his other ventures such as the plastic packaging company, Daibochi, and the snack food factory, Sedap Food, flourished and were listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (KLSE).

He made plenty of investments over the years, including investing in foreign and local banks.

Interest and rise in politics

Daim has always been interested in politics but his first encounter with real politics took place in 1966.

At the time, he was still working as a lawyer with Allen & Gledhill. The firm was appointed by the government to act for the Sarawak governor in a case against the chief minister of the state.

He was asked to attend a cabinet meeting where he briefed cabinet members on the political situation in Sarawak. He assisted in drafting the statement of the governor that the assembly was to debate.

The prime minister was impressed by his legal skills and political knowledge and thus, offered Daim a seat in Sungai Petani in the 1974 General Election. Daim declined the offer as he wanted to establish his credentials in business.

Daim retired in 1977 and pursued a course in urban planning at the University of California Berkeley.

Daim has been asked to join politics over the years and each time he declined the offers. Finally, Daim was informed by Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn in 1980 that he was appointed as a senator in the upper house of parliament.

The event that would truly launch Daim’s career was the day before nominations for the 1982 general elections.

The then-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Daim to contest the Kuala Muda parliamentary seat. His rise in politics was meteoric and he became the Finance Minister in 1984.

He remained as the Finance Minister until March 1991. According to Dr Mahathir, Daim only took on the role to help reorganize and improve the country’s financial position. Since he has fulfilled his task, the prime minister let Daim go.

Dr Mahathir recommended Daim for the Tun title, the highest honour in Malaysia. On 5 June 1991, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Azlan Shah conferred on Daim the Seri Setia Mahkota award, which carries the title Tun.

Daim was called back into public service several times over the years such as during the Asian Financial Crisis. He became the Finance Minister again in 1999 until 2001.

When Dr Mahathir became prime minister again in 2018, Daim was appointed as one of the five members of the Council of Elders to advise the government.

Despite being a busy man, he managed to find time and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree from Universiti Malaya at the age of 81 in 2019. He worked on the thesis regarding the New Economic Policy for 11 years.

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