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Thursday, 6 October 2016

Water fiasco: RM114 million seized from Sabah water officials

It was a record haul by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission – RM114mil seized from two top officers of the Sabah Water Department, comprising RM53.7mil in cash found in their homes and offices as well as RM60mil in bank accounts. Also seized were luxury cars, jewellery, land titles, branded watches and designer handbags. MACC expects to uncover more as it seeks to access five bank safes and foreign accounts.

It came as a shock to even the most seasoned graftbusters.

Lap of luxury: The MACC displaying the cars seized from both the director and his deputy during the press conference in Kota Kinabalu. Inset: The bags in the boot of the accused’s car were believed to have contained vast amounts of cash.

In the biggest ever seizure in its 49year history, the Malaysian AntiCorruption Agency (MACC, formerly the AntiCorruption Agency) recovered RM114mil from the top two officials of the Sabah Water Department – including RM53.7mil in cold hard cash that took more than 30 officers 15 hours to count.

Also recovered from the homes and offices of the department’s director and his deputy were nine mostly luxury vehicles, expensive watches, jewellery and 94 highend handbags.

The cash – RM45mil seized from the director and RM7.5mil from his deputy – was found stashed inside safes, cupboards, drawers and also a car boot, according to the MACC.

Also seized was RM1.18mil in over halfadozen foreign currencies.

The two senior state civil officers were arrested yesterday and remanded for a week for investigations into alleged kickbacks involving RM3.3bil worth of federal projects.

“It is the highest amount of cash we have ever recovered in our history as MACC or when we were known as the AntiCorruption Agency,” newlypromoted MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki told a news conference here.

A 55yearold businessman with a Datuk title, who is believed to be the brother of the deputy director, and his company accountant have also been arrested in connection with the probe.

In what is shaping up to be the nation’s biggest corruption and money laundering investigations, the MACC has frozen some RM60mil in accounts of the two officials and also the company they purportedly have links to.

“In cash and bank accounts, we have seized RM114mil in total,” Azam said.

MACC, he added, believed that a large sum of money might also have been channelled to bank accounts in a neighbouring country.

“We will make an effort to get the money back,” he said without disclosing the country or the suspected amount in the accounts.

MACC is also in the process of trying to open five safes at a bank where they expect to recover more cash, said Azam, adding that they needed to follow bank rules to access the safes.

The MACC team also found 127 land titles worth millions of ringgit.

Among the vehicles seized were a BMW 535i (which costs RM500,000), MercedesBenz C300 (RM308,000), Range Rover SE V8 (RM1.1mil), Mazda6 (RM195,000), Volvo XC60 (RM270,000), Lexus ES (RM260,000), Audi A1 (RM180,000) and Ford Ranger (RM112,000).

Photo: The Star/ANN

The make of the ninth vehicle is unknown. In all, the cars total some RM3mil in value.

The luxury watches comprised brands like Patek Philippe, Tag Heuer, Rolex, Cartier and Guess while the handbags included Chanel, Burberry, Versace, Louis Vuitton and Hermes.

“We are checking the authenticity of the branded goods and jewellery. We can’t put a value to them now.

“The amount of money we have seized does not commensurate with their salaries,” said Azam without disclosing the identity of the two government officers.

“We are also calling in more individuals to help facilitate investigations,” he said, adding that the suspects and all those who had been called in so far gave their full cooperation.

MACC, he added, hoped that more people would come out and assist in its investigations as it would not hesitate to arrest them if they failed to cooperate.

Azam said MACC started its investigations about a year ago following reports from the public.

“We have been carrying out intelligence gathering and surveillance on the duo and their business associates.

“The suspects have allowed for the monopoly of projects and prevented other contractors from getting a fair share of business,” said Azam.

He said MACC believed their activity had been going on since 2010.

Azam said the two were suspected of giving out contracts to certain companies owned by their relatives, resulting in many other contractors not getting jobs for waterrelated projects involving some RM3.3bil from the Federal Government.

“There have been many complaints by other contractors that they were not able to get projects,” he said.

On the cash and other funds recovered, he said if the court found the money to be illgotten, it would be returned to the Government.

Earlier yesterday, magistrate Stephanie Sherron Abbie granted seven days’ remand for the four after an application was made by MACC investigating officer Mohd Faliq Basiruddin.

Azam said the MACC would apply to extend their remand if it was unable to complete its investigations within the week.

“We are still working out the money trail, and it will take some time as it is a complex investigation,” he said.

Hundreds of millions spent to improve Sabah’s water supply

KOTA KINABALU: The Federal Government is spending hundreds of millions of ringgit annually through special allocations to improve the water supply in Sabah.

These are mainly for the construction of water treatment plants, installation of new pipelines and replacement of ageing ones, according to officials.

In recent months, funding for 30 water treatment plants has been approved.

For the 2015 state budget, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman had announced more than RM571mil for water supply improvement.

These included the construction of a water treatment plant and pipeline network installation in Beaufort at a cost of RM226mil.

The money was also for the construction of the Keningau Water Treatment Plant costing RM235mil and replacement of pipelines in Kota Kinabalu under the Reduction of NonRevenue Water (NRW) KK Phase IV programme costing RM38mil.

Last year, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan announced that almost RM350mil was allocated to the Sabah Water Department to carry out several mega projects in the state.

These include the construction and refurbishment of water treatment plants in Beaufort, Kundasang, Semporna and Keningau.

Last February, Rural Development Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced a RM48mil allocation for the construction of a water treatment plant at Moyog in Penampang.

Musa orders state govt to fully assist in probe

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman has ordered the state government to give full assistance to the anticorruption investigators looking into suspected abuse of power, graft and money laundering involving projects.

“Let the authorities conduct their investigation without fear or favour,” he said in a statement.

Musa said the state government would also study the system and procedures on the tendering and awarding of projects in all departments to identify weaknesses or loopholes that provided opportunities for corruption and abuse of power.

He reminded civil servants to continuously uphold their integrity in discharging their duties.

Sources: The Star/Asia News Network

Sabah MACC probe: Cash total rises to RM114.5 million, five safety deposit boxes still unopened

KOTA KINABALU: More cash and items are expected to be confiscated as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) continues one of its largest corruption investigations involving four people, including two Sabah senior government officers.

MACC provided an update on the total amount of cash recovered from the senior officers and several bank accounts, including a company account, to RM114.5 million.

Five safety deposit boxes belonging to one of the senior officers are expected to be unlocked today.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said the unlocking of the boxes will have to be done with assistance from banks.

"Due to some regulations we have to comply with, we are not able to unlock the boxes immediately, but hopefully, we will be able to do so soon."

He also said that MACC officers will be sent to a neighbouring country where the suspects may have kept their money. MACC has also identified several individuals who may have links with the suspects who will be called up for their statement to be recorded.

By AVILA GERALDINE New Straits Times online

Two top Sabah Water Dept officers remanded over kickbacks from RM3.3bil project

The Sabah Water Dept director (right) and his deputy outside the Magistrate's court in Kota Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: Two senior officers of the Sabah Water Department and two others have been remanded to facilitate investigations into alleged kickbacks involving RM3.3bil worth of federal projects.

The 54-year-old director, his 51-year-old deputy and 55-year-old businessman brother, who is a Datuk, and his accountant, 50, were brought to the Magistrate’s court here on Wednesday.

Magistrate Stephanie Sherron Abbie allowed an application by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission investigating officer Mohd Faliq for the four people to be remanded for seven days.

On Tuesday, some RM3mil worth of cash were seized from the safe of one of the officers along with seven luxury vehicles belonging to them.

The MACC has frozen three bank accounts belonging to the director, the deputy and the Datuk in their investigations.

By Stephanie Lee and Muguntan Vanar The Star/Asia News Network

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