KL replaces 3 top men at anti-graft agency

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Abu Kassim Mohamed (pictured) will be replaced by a senior official from the Attorney-General's Chambers.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Abu Kassim Mohamed (pictured) will be replaced by a senior official from the Attorney-General's Chambers. PHOTO: BHM

KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian government is replacing the three top officers at the country's anti- graft body after being at loggerheads with Prime Minister Najib Razak over allegations of graft linked to US$700 million (S$946 million) found in the latter's private accounts.

The government's chief secretary Ali Hamsa announced yesterday that Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Abu Kassim Mohamed will be replaced by a senior official from the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), which itself saw a change of leadership last July at the height of the accusations against Datuk Seri Najib.

Tan Sri Ali said the head of AGC's National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Dzulkifli Ahmad will take over the reins at MACC from Monday. Tan Sri Abu Kassim had announced his early retirement.

Instead of succeeding him, two deputy commissioners will also be leaving.

Head of enforcement Mohd Shukri Abdull is on leave from duty until his retirement in October, while MACC's head of prevention Mustafar Ali was reassigned to the Immigration Department.

A third deputy, Datuk Seri Mohd Jamidan Abdullah, was overlooked for promotion.

"Dzulkifli has basically been running the AGC since Apandi took over," a source involved with MACC said, referring to Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali, who was made the government's top lawyer in July.

The changes come amid renewed pressure on PM Najib after United States investigators said in civil suits last week that US$3.5 billion was siphoned out of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) - the troubled state fund overseen by the premier - with the involvement of his stepson Riza Aziz and businessman Low Taek Jho, a former Najib confidant.

A second government source said Datuk Mustafar had requested the transfer, having previously been internally earmarked as Mr Abu Kassim's potential successor.

"This is bad for the image of MACC," the second source said, referring to the perceived clearing out of the leadership that investigated PM Najib and 1MDB.

Mr Najib's appointments of top personnel in various institutions have been under intense scrutiny since July 2015 reports of cash found in the premier's personal accounts being deposited via 1MDB-linked companies.

In January, Mr Apandi cleared Mr Najib of any wrongdoing, saying the bulk of the money was a political donation from the Saudi royal family.

But the MACC persisted in its probe by resubmitting investigation papers concerning RM42 million (S$14 million) that was also found in Mr Najib's bank accounts.

Shannon Teoh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'KL replaces 3 top men at anti-graft agency'. Print Edition | Subscribe