JOHOR BARU • A former top politician in Johor, Abdul Latif Bandi, was yesterday charged in court with 33 counts of graft in a land scandal involving some RM30 million (S$9.5 million), in what is seen as a wider move by the government to crack down on corruption by top officials.
Latif was until last month the executive councillor - a Johor state Cabinet member - in charge of housing and local government. He claimed trial to the charges.
Also charged in the same case was property consultant Amir Sharifuddin Abdul Raub.
Latif, 52, arrived in court without handcuffs and accompanied by officers from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), the New Straits Times daily reported on its website.
He had been detained by the anti- graft agency for a week until March 16 before he was released on bail.
Another seven people, including his son and a special officer, were also detained during investigations and later released on bail.
Amount frozen in 45 bank accounts.
Luxury cars seized. Five high-powered motorcycles and dozens of branded handbags were also seized.
NST said the authorities had frozen some RM15.5 million in 45 bank accounts in the course of the probe, and seized 21 luxury cars, five high-powered motorcycles and dozens of branded handbags.
The case revolves around alleged kickbacks to convert housing lots that could be bought only by bumiputeras into non-bumiputera lots, which can then be sold at much higher prices, local media have reported.
The MACC, often accused of going after small fry, has been pursuing big names and major cases in the past few months, with several men carrying the datuk title caught.
The MACC's top officials have been also more willing to speak to local media, sometimes providing pictures of cash, luxury cars and handbags seized.
The MACC since last month has been probing a 70-year-old datuk seri for alleged abuse of power when he was head of the local foundation, and his 47-year-old son, who carries the title of datuk.
Media reports last week wrote about one tan sri and his son who face a probe for allegedly submitting fraudulent claims amounting to nearly RM13 million.
Another ongoing case involves a 28-year-old datuk, Adam Rosly, an opposition figure who bought a big house for a claimed RM1 million and had shown off his luxury cars on social media.
In January, several senior officials of government land agency Felda were nabbed in an alleged RM146 million scam to start a sturgeon farm in Pahang to harvest caviar.
Anti-graft group Transparency International Malaysia said it was time for Malaysia to take another step by having all political parties disclose their financing and expenditure.
"Political funding must be stated in the parties' bank accounts and a properly audited financial report must be published annually," said its president, Datuk Akhbar Satar, in a statement.
"All ministers and top government servants should also declare their assets to the MACC, and the chief commissioner should declare these to Parliament," he said.