KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8 — Funds donated by the public to charity group Aman Palestin in aid of the Palestinian people were allegedly transferred to companies with no apparent connection to the Middle Eastern state or the ongoing conflict with Israel.
Quoting a source, national daily Utusan Malaysia reported that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) initial investigations found that the funds had allegedly been distributed to companies involved in a variety of activities, such as tourism, a shooting academy, gold mining, technology, research and media.
The source also said that the fund manager’s family and friends are suspected of running these companies, with their salaries paid from the public’s donations to the Palestinian cause.
“MACC investigations also found that some of the public’s donations were used to buy gold, cryptocurrency and real estate, such as property and land that had nothing to do with helping the Palestinian people,” the source was quoted as saying.
The source further added that the charity group was found to have hired an accounting firm that had been blacklisted to allegedly fabricate expense statements to show it had a good financial record.
“A review of Aman Palestin’s accounting books also revealed operating and management fees exceeding RM400,000 per month.
“MACC is also said to be continuing its investigations to determine whether there were any leakages in the public donations received, in addition to tracking where these funds ended up.
“MACC is also examining the actual amount of funds that Aman Palestin has channelled to helping the Palestinian people,” the source was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki when contacted by Utusan Malaysia confirmed the matter but refused to comment further due to the ongoing investigations.
Last month, MACC said it had frozen 41 bank accounts linked to Aman Palestin and several other companies following the investigation into the alleged misappropriation of RM70 million by the charity organisation.
Among the items seized during the raid were four Grade 999.9 gold bullion weighing 1kg each.
On November 28, Aman Palestin reportedly admitted using its funds to buy gold bars that were seized by MACC, saying the company is allowed to do so.
Citing its company constitution, Aman Palestin’s lawyer Mohd Rafique Rashid Ali said its board of directors are allowed to invest the funds and denied that they had been misappropriated.
The lawyer also reportedly said that only 11 of the 41 accounts frozen by the MACC belonged to Aman Palestin and were used for donation purposes, while the rest belonged to the charity’s strategic partners, board of directors and staff members.
He also demanded that MACC unfreeze the accounts within three days or face legal action.
On December 1, Azam said that MACC could not arbitrarily unfreeze the banks accounts until investigations are completed.
He also said that the authorities are still tracing the various transactions linked to Aman Palestin.
He stressed that this was to ensure that the millions of ringgit in public donations are used transparently.
According to Aman Palestin’s official website, the Bangi-based charitable organisation was founded in 2004 to collect donations for those affected by conflicts in Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.
Its executive director is Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, a former president of controversial Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma).
Another director, Zaini Awang, is also an Isma leader, while an adviser Zainur Rashid is Isma’s current vice-president.