Vietnamese held for bribing Malaysian maritime officers

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A Vietnamese businesswoman has been detained by Malaysia's anti-graft agency for allegedly offering bribes to maritime officers to release boats they had seized.

Sources said the 41-year-old woman, who carries the honorific title of Datuk, was held at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office in Kuantan on Wednesday (Nov 15).

She had been summoned there to assist in a probe over a RM890,000 (S$289,000) bribe that was paid to settle a case earlier this year.

It is believed that the amount was paid in five transactions to officers from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

The bribe was allegedly paid to secure the release of several Vietnamese boats that had been seized by the MMEA in Malaysian waters. It is believed the boats were seized for offences under the Fisheries Act 1985.

"We believe the suspect can assist us in identifying the boat owners and crewmen who have been released so far. Checks also showed that some of the boats were using false registrations when they were detained by the authorities. We also want to know the extent of the links between the suspect and the agents working for a government enforcement agency," said the source.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki confirmed the arrest. He said the suspect would be brought to MACC headquarters to assist in the case.

She is expected to be remanded at 9am in a magistrate's court in Putrajaya on Thursday (Nov 16).

The accused has been living in the country for the past 17 years and is believed to be a mother of four.

Malaysia has been stepping up efforts to stem illegal fishing and has destroyed nearly 300 foreign boats caught poaching in its waters.