Firms suspected of swindling RM180m meant for rural Sabah

MACC raided 15 companies simultaneously in several locations in Sabah on Wednesday morning.  — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
MACC raided 15 companies simultaneously in several locations in Sabah on Wednesday morning. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 6 — Almost RM180 million was embezzled from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry’s funds for the underprivileged, a source close to the graft investigation revealed.

The source said Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) probe found that the embezzlement went back to at least 2013.

Graft busters had initially seized RM150 million in cash. Yesterday, another RM29 million in a bank account was frozen.

The funds were to finance projects for the underprivileged mainly in Sabah. Among them:

― Upgrading of water and electricity supply.

― Repair of roads where the hardcore poor live.

― Food programmes for poor students.

In total the projects were valued at RM500 million.

The source said the money seized was in three separate bank accounts belonging to privately registered companies which were sub-contractors in the projects.

“The investigation into this case is massive and we will need more time to piece everything together.

“We have already identified a group of people behind the siphoning of funds and among them is a senior civil servant. We will start making arrests soon.”

MACC raided 15 companies simultaneously in several locations in Sabah on Wednesday morning.

More raids and seizures are expected in the coming days. 

MACC investigators are currently going through every transaction that had taken place in the three bank accounts over the last three years.

“We are currently going through stacks of documents such as financial statements from several companies and also bank statements from the three frozen accounts,” the source said.

This is the second corruption scandal to hit the state, where last year the anti-graft agency moved in on a multi-billion-ringgit scandal which involved the Sabah Water Department (SWD).

Over 20 people were rounded up after MACC uncovered millions in subsequent raids, with the first seizure being RM3 million of cash inside a safe deposit box.

Investigators also unearthed RM45 million in the director’s house.

Up to RM114.5 million was seized, along with luxury items, which included 19kg of gold jewellery, cars and folders with 127 land grants.

In December, former SWD director Awang Mohd Tahir Mohd Talib, his wife Fauziah Puit and the department’s former deputy director Lim Lam Beng were charged with 37 counts of misappropriating infrastructure funds under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA).

The trio are currently awaiting trial.

Former rural and regional developement minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal was also questioned over the scandal but claimed he was linked because of political reasons.

MACC Chief Commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad said yesterday investigations were still in initial stages.

“Let us continue our investigations first. Action will be taken against those responsible for misappropriating government funds,” he told reporters at the 9th International Conference on Financial Crime and Terrorism Financing, here.

Earlier, Dzulkifli revealed the amount of corrupt monies seized and recovered by MACC so far had been staggering.

“In 2015, MACC forfeited RM3.9 million while last year RM4.95 million was forfeited.

“For this year, only up till September, RM21.4 million has been successfully forfeited. This amount reflects an increase of almost 400 per cent compared to the previous year,” he said.

He said the success of this robust enforcement efforts showed the importance and effectiveness of compliance.

“MACC’s achievement could only be credited to the growing awareness, influence and excellent cooperation with our partners in the compliance community.

“However, these accomplishments should not get into our heads and we cannot afford to slow down our enforcement efforts,” he said.

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