Nearly $58m seized in probe into Sabah aid case

Malaysian senior civil servants alleged to have embezzled funds meant for rural poor in the state

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's anti-graft agency has seized nearly RM180 million (S$58 million) in cash as it investigates allegations that senior civil servants have embezzled funds allocated for the rural poor in Sabah state.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad yesterday said another RM29 million had been seized, following the seizure of more than RM150 million on Wednesday in a "recent Sabah case", reported The Star.

The officials involved in the scheme to siphon money from projects meant for the underprivileged are believed to be from the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

Unnamed sources told the New Straits Times (NST) that the corrupt officials had pocketed at least RM100 million in the last few years by colluding with private companies to declare in writing that the projects they were supposed to undertake had been completed when in fact nothing had been done.

The projects were valued at between RM500 million and nearly RM1 billion, and included food programmes for poor students and the provision of basic amenities and infrastructure such as water, electricity and roads in rural communities.

Yesterday, the Minister for Rural and Regional Development said his ministry will extend its full cooperation to the MACC in its investigation, reported the NST.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said his team will assist with the probe and provide all the necessary items needed to ensure the investigation runs smoothly.

"I was informed that this case involved the previous administration. But I am sure the files are still in my ministry. I will give everything that the MACC needs," he told reporters.

Mr Ismail was given the rural and regional development portfolio in July 2015, taking over from Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal who has left ruling party Umno and formed opposition group Parti Warisan Sabah.

In January, the ministry's former secretary-general, Datuk Mohd Arif Ab Rahman, was arrested for corruption in a high-profile raid where RM2.6 million in cash and gold was seized.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Azam Baki told NST that the commission had, in recent months, been dealing with many cases that involved the swindling of funds set aside for the benefit of the underprivileged. "This includes abuse of power and graft, including civil servants in decision-making positions colluding with the corrupt from the private sector to line their own pockets," he said.

Datuk Azam said their modus operandi would often involve the falsification of documents to indicate that planned projects had been carried out when they were not. Another popular method was to cut back on the budgeted expenditure and pocket the difference.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'Nearly $58m seized in probe into Sabah aid case'. Print Edition | Subscribe