Graft probe into Sabah Water Department uncovers another S$10 million in foreign banks

Cash and jewellery seized during the raid were displayed at a press conference in Kota Kinabalu.
Cash and jewellery seized during the raid were displayed at a press conference in Kota Kinabalu. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - On the first day of its raid, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized RM114 million (S$37.9 million) worth of assets - RM53.7 million in cold cash - from two senior Sabah Water Department officials. Six days later, they traced RM30 million more stashed in foreign banks and another RM30 million in land titles.

In a shocking corruption case involving the department's director Ag Tahir Ag Talib, 54, and his deputy Teo Chee Kong, 52, investigations uncovered a money trail leading to Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

Both men, who were detained on Oct 4, allegedly amassed nearly RM200 million from a massive and well-structured scheme.

They are being investigated for alleged abuse of power and money laundering linked to contracts for federal-funded projects given out by the Water Department in Sabah since 2010.

Initial investigations showed that the deputy director moved about RM29 million to banks abroad, while the director did the same with about RM1 million, sources said.

 
 
 

The MACC, which also found 127 land titles for housing, agriculture and commercial, valued them at RM30 million through the Land and Survey Department.

Investigators were unearthing more incriminating evidence, said the sources, adding that other senior staff of the department could be party to the scam involving RM3.3 billion from federal allocations for the state since 2010.

"More arrests are expected. It may cripple the department as it also involves several other key personnel," said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Apart from detecting cash stashed overseas and land titles, the investigators also seized RM56.3 million in cash, nine vehicles worth RM2.7 million, an assortment of jewellery worth RM3.64 million, as well as designer handbags worth RM500,000.

The MACC has frozen RM62 million in bank accounts.

A source claimed that Ag Tahir kept most of his assets in cash, while Teo stashed his in banks and investments.

When the men were arrested, anti-graft officials found RM53 million in cash - the biggest amount seized by MACC - in their homes and offices. Apparently, Ag Tahir hid cash amounting to RM45 million at his home in Graceville Condominium here.

MACC Deputy Commissioner for Operations Azam Baki confirmed that efforts were being made to recover the money kept overseas through the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty.

He said there could be more arrests as investigators recorded statements from contractors and the families of the two officials who were believed to be involved in the companies undertaking the projects.

The eight-day remand for the two officials ends on Tuesday (Oct 11), but MACC is expected to apply for an extension.

Two others, including Teo's elder brother and his company accountant, were also arrested.

Some 40 witnesses have been questioned so far in connection with the projects allegedly tendered out to family-linked companies.

On Monday, Chief Minister Musa Aman called on all parties to stop speculating.

"This is an important investigation. Let the MACC do their job," he said in a statement.