KOTA KINABALU • Three people were charged in court here yesterday for being involved in one of Malaysia's biggest graft scandals.
The former director of Sabah Water Department Awang Mohd Tahir, 54, his wife Fauziah Puit, 51, and the department's former deputy director Lim Lam Beng, 62, collectively face 37 counts of misappropriating infrastructure funds, involving RM61.48 million (S$19.9 million) in cash and bank savings, as well as unlawful possession of luxury products, reported national news agency Bernama.
The luxury items included 86 watches, seven cars, jewellery and designer handbags.
All three pleaded not guilty to the charges. Neither Awang nor his wife could raise bail, set at RM10 million for Awang and RM2 million for Fauziah. They will be held at Kepayan prison pending trial, reported The Star Online news site.
Lim, a former technical and engineering adviser to Sabah state's finance ministry, was released after posting bail of RM1 million and surrendering his travel documents.
According to New Straits Times Online, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (Macc) deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki said yesterday that more people are expected to be charged in connection with the case, dubbed "Watergate" by the Malaysian media.
He did not disclose how many people would be hauled up next, but said the commission has submitted its case to the deputy public prosecutor, who will make the decision.
"Macc, with the cooperation of the state government, is also looking at loopholes in the system or procedures; the state government has extended good cooperation to us to solve this matter based on what we found in the investigation, but this too will take time," he added.
Macc's special task force comprising 70 personnel has been investigating the matter since last year. It conducted high-profile raids on the offices and homes of the accused in October this year.
Macc, with the cooperation of the state government, is also looking at loopholes in the system or procedures; the state government has extended good cooperation to us to solve this matter based on what we found in the investigation, but this too will take time.
DATUK AZAM BAKI, Macc deputy chief commissioner.
According to Malaysian media, the raids unearthed RM57 million in cash, 19kg of gold jewellery worth about RM3.6 million, 97 designer handbags worth RM500,000, and 127 land titles for plots valued at about RM30 million. Another RM60 million in bank accounts has been frozen. Forty-nine people have been arrested, while another 15 engineers with the Sabah Water Department have been implicated.
The Star reported that about 60 per cent of the RM3.3 billion allocated by the federal government for water projects in Sabah since 2010 was believed to have been siphoned off from the state water department through a network of companies.