Former Malaysian minister could be next on graft watchdog's list: The Star

Former Cabinet minister turned opposition politician Shafie Apdal seems likely to be called in for questioning by graft investigators as a probe into an embezzlement scandal in Sabah state widens.
Former Cabinet minister turned opposition politician Shafie Apdal seems likely to be called in for questioning by graft investigators as a probe into an embezzlement scandal in Sabah state widens.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KOTA KINABALU (The Star/Asia News Network): Former Cabinet minister turned opposition politician Shafie Apdal seems likely to be called in for questioning by graft investigators as a probe into an embezzlement scandal in Sabah state widens, sources have said.

The former rural and regional development minister is scheduled to return to the state of Sabah this weekend. He is expected to attend a Warisan gathering in Keningau on Sunday (Oct 15).

At least seven people, including Datuk Seri Shafie's younger brother Hamid Apdal, have been arrested in connection with the probe into the alleged siphoning of RM1.5 billion (S$481 million) from funds meant for rural development projects.

Although the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has not given any indication, sources say the Parti Warisan Sabah president has many questions to answer over the deals.

The MACC is expected to make more arrests as it sifts through about 350 water, electricity and road projects that were given to some 60 companies. The MACC has so far frozen RM170 million in bank accounts and assets of some of the companies involved.

Some of the projects have not been completed while others did not meet specifications, including a water-treatment plant in Semporna.

The officials involved in the scheme are believed to be from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry. Mr Shafie was its minister from 2009 to 2015.

Even party members are anticipating his arrest anytime soon, reported The Star newspaper.

Mr Shafie quit Umno and the government last year and formed the opposition Parti Warisan Sabah. He is trying to forge a united opposition front in the upcoming general election against the Barisan Nasional coalition led by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Calling the probe a "political assassination" targeted at him, Mr Shafie has said he is ready to give his side of the story to the MACC.

His party's vice-president Junz Wong said they were prepared for the possibility of Mr Shafie being called in for questioning.

"Even Shafie has given us a thorough motivational briefing. We have prepared members at all levels to remain calm and continue the party work," he said, adding that they had actually anticipated the MACC swoops last month.

Graft investigators are identifying at least two or three more state assemblymen for questioning. Most of them have family ties with Mr Shafie.

The Star newspaper reported that there is also a WhatsApp message going around in Sabah urging Warisan members to "continue fighting to the end", even if the leaders are arrested.

"We are the people and we are the leaders," the message says.

It also claims that Mr Shafie has admitted he is likely to be hauled up by the MACC anytime and urges members to stay calm and not cause any problems.

Sources say that at least 32 individuals, many of whom are from Sabah's east-coast Semporna area, are being sought for their statements to be recorded in connection with the probe.

Some have given their statements.