Sabah opposition leader Shafie arrested by Malaysian anti-graft agency

Sabah opposition leader and former Malaysian cabinet minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal has been called in for questioning by the anti-graft commission.

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah opposition leader and former Malaysian Cabinet minister Mohd Shafie Apdal was arrested by the anti-graft commission on Thursday (Oct 19) as it investigates RM1.5 billion (S$482 million) in government funds allegedly siphoned off when he was rural development minister.

Shafie, 60, was detained at 9pm on Thursday, reported The Star, after nearly four hours of questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) at its office in Kota Kinabalu. He is expected to be taken to the Kota Kinabalu High Court on Friday (Oct 20) to be remanded.

Darell Leiking, deputy president of Parti Warisan Sabah confirmed the arrest and said Shafie was accepting of the process and the arrest.

"His request is that everyone remains calm, don't act out, yell or get emotional. He wants to respect the law and due process," he said, reported the Malay Mail Online.

Shafie had made his way to the MACC office after flying in from Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon.

Cries of "Sabah Ubah" or "Sabah Change" were heard at Kota Kinabalu international airport yesterday amongst the 300-strong crowd waiting to greet him, reported the Malay Mail Online.

According to the news site, Shafie, president of Warisan had said, "It's important that we do not obstruct any law. I know the MACC is doing their job. I am seeing them with a clear heart and mind and not afraid to answer any questions to the best of my knowledge but I ask that I be fairly treated."

The agency has detained ten people in the rural aid case so far, including Warisan office-bearers, members of ruling party Umno and Shafie's brothers Hamid and Yusof Apdal. Shafie's brother Yusof, a state assemblyman who is Umno chief for Silam in Sabah remains in custody, while his other brother Hamid was released on bail yesterday.

Shafie, MP for Semporna and former Umno strongman has claimed that the investigations are part of "political assassination" moves to destroy him, and that these attempts have been afoot since he left Umno and set up Warisan in 2016.

MACC chief Dzulkifli Ahmad had previously stressed the agency's investigation was about alleged corruption and abuse of power.

"Look at who we have arrested. We have detained not only Warisan members, but also Umno members. Our investigation is based on evidence, not political parties. This is beyond politics," Tan Sri Dzulkifli had said, reported The Malaysian Insight.

The agency's probe centres on some 70 projects worth RM7.5bil funded by the federal government to provide roads, water and electricity to rural areas in Sabah between 2009 and 2015, when Mr Shafie headed the Rural and Regional Development Ministry.

Over 45 people have been questioned since the probe began two weeks ago.

Mr Shafie's party has been preparing for his possible arrest since then, with Mr Leiking likely to step in as acting president.

Warisan's struggle will continue even if Mr Shafie is detained, said Mr Leiking yesterday, before the arrest. "This is not about him nor is it about me or any other individual. This is about the cause," said Mr Leiking. According to news site The Malaysian Insight, one of Warisan's objectives is to fight for the rights of Sabahans.

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