Malaysia's anti-graft agency arrests high-profile 'Datuk Seri' over Penang tunnel probe

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The controversial RM6.34 billion (S$2.14 billion) Penang undersea tunnel project has taken a new twist - a high-profile "Datuk Seri" is alleged to have received RM19 million to close the corruption probe.

The 37-year-old, believed to be also an actor in an upcoming local action movie, is said to have received the money in three portions between July and August last year.

He was detained at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) headquarters in Putrajaya after his statement was recorded on Tuesday (Feb 27).

Sources said the businessman is believed to have obtained the money from the project's main construction company.

"The anti-graft body is investigating the feasibility and detailed design studies of the project and believes the suspect might have convinced the main company that he was able to close the case.

"The first transaction of RM2 million was paid in July and the second payment of RM15mil was channelled through a company connected to him in the same month.

"The third tranche of RM2 million was paid in August," said a source.

It is learnt that about two years ago, the suspect was placed under investigation for alleged fraud and illegal deposit taking.

 
 

The Penang undersea tunnel project came under spotlight following reports lodged by Parti Cinta Malaysia vice-president Datuk Huan Cheng Guan in 2016.The MACC stepped in and started an investigation into the mega project.

MACC senior director of investigations Datuk Simi Abd Ghani said his officers were still in the process of gathering evidence.

Simi said the suspect would be held overnight and remanded at the Putrajaya court on Wednesday.

The businessman is the fifth person to be arrested in relation to investigations on the feasibility studies involving three main roads and an undersea tunnel.

Early last month, two high-ranking officials of construction companies with the title of Datuk were picked up to assist in the case.

In a follow-up operation, another Datuk Seri, who is a company chairman, and its senior engineering consultant, were also detained.

All four men have since been released on MACC bail.

The mega project includes the construction of a 7.2km undersea tunnel connecting Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam in north Butterworth.

There will also be a 10.53km north coastal paired road from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, a 5.7km Air Itam-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass and a 4.075km Gurney Drive-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass.

In Kepala Batas, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki said they were in the midst of engaging independent consultants to evaluate the cost of the feasibility studies for the project.

"Such cases involve technical issues and according to our experience, it will take some time.

"We are engaging technical parties or consultants to evaluate the cost of the feasibility studies," he told reporters.

Azam said so far, statements from 127 witnesses had been recorded. He did not rule out the possibility that some of them would be called in again.

However, he said there was no need to call in Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at this juncture.

Two state executive councillors - Lim Hock Seng and Prof Dr P. Ramasamy - have had their statements recorded.