Former Sabah official pleads not guilty to 146 charges of embezzlement of S$10.5m in public funds

Former Sabah Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Kong being escorted by policemen at the Sessions Court in Kota Kinabalu.
Former Sabah Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Kong being escorted by policemen at the Sessions Court in Kota Kinabalu. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KOTA KINABALU - A former deputy director with the Sabah Water Department has claimed trial to 146 counts of misappropriation of public funds totalling RM32 million (S$10.5million), the latest prosecution from a massive graft scandal dubbed "Sabah Watergate".

Teo Chee Kong, 52, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday (Dec 13) to the charges proffered under Section 4 (1) (a) and 4 (1)(b) of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act.

The charges were not read out one by one in court because of the volume, but summarised by a court clerk, reported Malaysian media. Bernama news agency reported that the offences took place between 2010 and 2016.

The court released the accused on RM1.5 million bail with RM500,000 deposited with two local sureties, reported Borneo Post.

It also ordered for the accused's passport to be impounded and kept by the court, pending disposal of the cases and for him to report every Saturday to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office between 8am and 8pm.

The case made headlines in October last year when the MACC announced the seizure of RM52 million in cash and valuables, along with the arrest of the Sabah Water Department's top two officers, Teo and his director Ag Mohd Tahir Ag Talib.

The scandal involved alleged abuse of power and money laundering linked to contracts for RM3.3 billion worth of federal-funded projects awarded to the department since 2010.

The case, dubbed "Sabah Watergate" by the Malaysian media, involved the largest cash seizure in the history of the MACC.

MACC had seized RM114 million worth of assets, including RM53.7 million in cash stashed at the duo's houses and office, RM30 million stashed in foreign banks and another RM30 million in 127 land titles, reported New Straits Times.

The Commission also seized nine vehicles worth RM2.7 million, jewellery worth RM3.64 million and designer handbags worth RM500,000.

On Dec 29 last year, Ag Mohd Tahir, 54, his wife, and another former SWD deputy director, Lim Lam Peng, were charged with 37 counts of misappropriating infrastructure funds.

All pleaded not guilty. After a series of delays and postponements, their trial is expected to take place on Feb 21 next year.

The prosecution says it will apply for Teo's case to be heard jointly with Ag Mohd Tahir's next year.

Up to date, cash seizures made from the alleged misappropriation of projects under the department amounted to RM189.2million, reported The Star newspaper.