PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) found a total of RM3.5 million (S$1.13 million) in cash when it raided a house belonging to a 47-year-old Datuk, believed to be the ringleader of a syndicate which made bids for billions in government contracts using hundreds of shell companies.
MACC investigators also discovered in the raid on Monday (April 5) that the Datuk amassed an extraordinary amount of wealth and assets, including a luxury yacht and two helicopters.
Luxury cars worth RM15.7 million as well as real estate including bungalows, a shophouse and an office worth RM29 million were also seized in a series of raids conducted by the graft busters since Monday.
Sources said 644 bank accounts belonging to individuals and companies, estimated at RM100 million, were also frozen in the course of the investigation.
They said that with the help of insiders in ministries and agencies, the syndicate had had an advantage in securing government contracts and tenders.
It is learnt that the syndicate leader controls more than 150 shell companies that were used to submit bids for government contracts, especially those involving facility maintenance and development projects.
The suspect had employed other individuals as company directors to conceal his ownership of the companies.
A source said: "MACC investigators believe the syndicate has the cooperation of insiders who are handsomely paid to ensure these companies are allowed to enter the tender process and also to ensure their bids were successful.
"With the help of these insiders, the cartel was provided with information on specifications of the jobs that needed to be done, ceiling prices set by those awarding the tenders, the number of companies participating and eligibility.
"The syndicate was even given tip-offs on the right time to submit their applications. "
The so-called "project cartel" syndicate is believed to have been awarded 345 tenders with an estimated value of RM3.8 billion from different ministries and agencies nationwide since 2014.
MACC officers found the names of hundreds of individuals were used to open companies under the syndicate leader's control.
It is learnt that information provided to open the companies was false.
It is also believed that financial statements submitted to ministries and agencies for these companies to be eligible to participate in the tender process were also false.
According to the sources, the MACC had been working on the case for almost a year to determine the scope of the syndicate's activities before closing in on them in a special operation on Sunday night.
Following surveillance, the main suspect and six others were arrested at two separate locations in Ampang and Cyberjaya where they were caught red-handed by investigators - they were in the process of filling up tender application forms.
The seven suspects were brought before Magistrate Shah Wira Abdul Halim on Monday and would be remanded until April 10.
MACC chief commissioner Azam Baki confirmed the arrests, saying that the individuals were being investigated under Sections 17 and 18 of the MACC Act.
He also did not rule out the possibility of more arrests to be made in connection with the syndicate's activities.
Earlier on Tuesday (April 6), MACC arrested the eighth suspect - a senior officer from a government agency - for his alleged involvement in the syndicate.
The 38-year-old suspect, a quantity surveyor with a Grade 48 position, is believed to have prepared bills of quantity for projects offered by a government agency.
Chief Secretary to the Government Mohd Zuki Ali promised to take action against civil servants involved in the syndicate.
"I regret that there are a handful of civil servants who allowed themselves to be used to score lucrative rewards," Tan Sri Mohd Zuki said in a statement on Tuesday.
"I give my assurance that stern action will be taken against any civil servant, if proven guilty, involved in this issue or any misconduct that taints the image of the public service."