JOHOR BARU • Johor executive councillor Abdul Latif Bandi, 51, was yesterday remanded for seven days over a massive land scandal in the state where kickbacks were allegedly received for converting land use.
Anti-graft officers seized an array of items from his home after his arrest, including 150 luxury handbags, RM41,000 (S$13,000) in cash and a luxury vehicle.
Last month, Abdul Latif's eldest son, Mr Ahmad Fauzan, and special officer Muhammad Idzuan Jamalludin were detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in a series of raids in the ongoing probe.
Some RM15.5 million in over 45 bank accounts was frozen, and the agency also seized 21 luxury cars, five high-powered motorcycles and stacks of documents.
A lawyer, two developers, a contractor and another suspect were also arrested. All seven suspects, aged between 25 and 50, were released on bail after their remand expired.
In Malaysia's state legislatures, a state Cabinet minister is called an executive councillor or exco. Abdul Latif was also chairman of the Johor Housing and Local Government Committee. He went on leave when MACC made its first arrests.
Anti-graft sources said that in this Johor case, the suspects allegedly received kickbacks for helping developers pay lower premiums to convert agricultural land so they could be used for housing and industrial projects.
The suspects also allegedly took bribes for converting bumiputera housing lots into non-bumiputera ones, so the properties could fetch a higher price.
Bumiputera lots are reserved for Malaysia's ethnic Malay and indigenous community.
Sources said the lawyer was involved in preparing legal documents for the projects, and that MACC had been looking into these land deals over the past six months.
Some 15 people have been summoned by the MACC to have their statements recorded.
MACC Deputy Chief Commissioner (Operations) Azam Baki said last month that the alleged corrupt practices had caused millions of dollars in losses to the state government's coffers.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK