Malaysia's Home Minister has again defended an all-expenses-paid trip to Istanbul taken by the national police chief, saying it was not sponsored by a private company.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin told reporters on Thursday that "there was nothing wrong" with the working trip as it was funded by the Malaysia Totalisator Board, a body under the Ministry of Finance that regulates betting agencies.
Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun, who is due to retire in May, found himself embroiled in controversy after reports and photos emerged of him enjoying a lavish trip to Istanbul, Turkey just months ahead of his retirement from the force.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), who travelled to Istanbul with 16 of his men, some of whom took their wives, had stayed at four-star Hotel Sura Hagia Sophia in the Sultanahmet district at an estimated cost of RM685 (S$228) a room a night.
"It was definitely not a working trip," a source told The Straits Times. "Seeing that he's retiring in May, the Home Minister is cutting him some slack by closing one eye."
Mr Muhyiddin had earlier denied that the trip, which reportedly took place from Feb 7 to 12, was to reward senior officers for their services.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had said that the trip, apparently to learn how to tackle online gambling, was not funded by his ministry or by taxpayers. He said that the trip was approved in 2017 by the Malaysia Totalisator Board, which is funded by private numbers forecasting company Da Ma Cai.
The trip was first highlighted on Sunday by whistleblower site Sarawak Report, which estimated the cost of flights for the 17 policemen to be RM254,218 and accommodation to be RM58,225.
Mr Fuzi has yet to comment.
"There is no doubt that he is nice but he has this habit of extending his stay to play golf after he's done with a meeting abroad," a senior officer told The Straits Times.
Mr Fuzi was appointed as the IGP on Sept 4, 2017, by former premier Najib Razak to replace Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.
During his tenure, Mr Fuzi had famously said there was no solid evidence linking fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, better known as Jho Low, to any business deals made by state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
Malaysia has since charged Low with money laundering of over US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) of 1MDB funds.
When Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya after last May's polls, many expected Mr Fuzi to be sacked for failing to act on the 1MDB scandal.
"The government decided to keep him after a candidate, who was supposed to replace Fuzi, declined the offer. Fuzi had also personally gone to meet Dr Mahathir, expressing his wish to 'leave' with dignity once his term is up," said the officer, referring to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
Malaysia is expected to announce the appointment of a new IGP and deputy IGP soon. Mr Fuzi's deputy, Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim, is due to retire next month.
There is speculation that Special Branch chief Abdul Hamid Bador will succeed Mr Fuzi.