Gold, cash seized as KL nabs top official for alleged graft

Anti-corruption agency to target civil servants with lavish lifestyles

PETALING JAYA • Gold bars and cash worth RM3 million ($965,000) in total were seized by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (Macc) after it nabbed the secretary-general of the Rural and Regional Development Ministry for alleged graft.

Datuk Mohd Arif Ab Rahman, 59, was picked up at about 8am yesterday, reported The Star Online news site. He was arrested at his house in the Klang Valley suburb of Subang Jaya. He is suspected of abusing his power and position since 2010 to solicit bribes.

Initial investigations showed that he had a direct hand in appointing contractors, suppliers and vendors.

A 29-year-old man who is believed to have received and kept bribes from contractors, suppliers and vendors linked to Datuk Mohd Arif was also detained, said Macc deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki in a statement yesterday.

These raids come on the back of Malaysia's own Watergate scandal last October when Macc conducted high-profile raids as it investigated allegations that some 60 per cent of RM3.3 billion in federal funds allocated for water projects were siphoned off by senior officials in the Sabah Water Department.

IMAGE TARNISHED

There is nothing wrong with playing golf. I also play it. But some of these officers travel abroad to play golf and take with them a large group, which includes contractors. These activities need to stop as they are painting a bad image of the civil service.

DATUK AZAM BAKI, deputy chief commissioner of Macc, on focusing on civil servants who play golf overseas.

According to Malaysian media, the raids unearthed RM57 million in cash, 19kg of gold jewellery, 97 designer handbags, and 127 land titles for plots valued at about RM30 million.

Another RM60 million in bank accounts were frozen. Three people were charged in court last week with misappropriating infrastructure funds amounting to RM61.5 million and unlawfully possessing luxury products.

Separately, Malaysia's anti-graft agency has announced that it will home in on civil servants who play golf abroad, fly business class and keep mistresses. These are signs that the officials are corrupt and abusing their powers, said Mr Azam, according to The Star.

"There is nothing wrong with playing golf. I also play it. But some of these officers travel abroad to play golf and take with them a large group, which includes contractors. These activities need to stop as they are painting a bad image of the civil service," he said, adding that the focus would be on high-ranking civil servants handling procurement and enforcement.

"In 2017, our investigation operations need to focus on the public sector and government-linked companies, as well as banking institutions."

The agency has hailed 2016 as a successful year, with more than 900 investigations launched and 285 people charged, reported the New Straits Times yesterday.

Still, not all Macc investigations have led to prosecution, the most notable of which were into allegations of financial mismanagement surrounding state funds 1Malaysia Development Berhad and SRC International.

On Tuesday, Datuk Bahri Mohd Zin a former director at Macc, told the media he opted for early retirement because he was frustrated that a case alleging RM42 million from state fund SRC International ended up in personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak did not go to court.

He told news site Malaysiakini.com: "There was too much money lost. I should not serve in spider-web laws."

Asked what he meant, he said it referred to laws that punished small offenders but allowed the bigger wrongdoers to escape.

Yesterday, Macc told The New Straits Times: "We have contacted Bahri, and he denied issuing a statement to that effect."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2017, with the headline 'Gold, cash seized as KL nabs top official for alleged graft'. Print Edition | Subscribe