Two senior Sabah officials in anti-graft probe lead modest life: Friends

Sabah Water Department Director Ag Tahir Ag Talip and his deputy, Teoh Chee Kong.
Sabah Water Department Director Ag Tahir Ag Talip and his deputy, Teoh Chee Kong. PHOTO: THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - On the outside, they are well-paid civil servants who live modest lives and not known to flash their wealth.

But behind closed doors, they are sitting on a mind-boggling amount of cash, jewellery, watches and cars.

The Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission (MACC) recovered RM114 million (S$38 million) from Sabah Water Department director Ag Tahir Ag Talip and his deputy Teoh Chee Kong on Wednesday (Oct 5) - the biggest seizure in its 49-year history. The amount included RM53.7 million in cash that took more than 30 officers 15 hours to count.

Also recovered from the homes and offices of the two men were nine mostly luxury vehicles, expensive watches, jewellery and high-end handbags.

The director and his deputy are quite well known in their respective neighbourhood but no one has had the faintest idea of the pile of treasures they were sitting on.

The 54-year-old Ag Tahir did have a penchant for luxury cars.

"He keeps to himself and he does not socialise much although he is well known,'' said a person who knows him.

He said he had seen the director use most of the luxury cars which were seized by the MACC.

"I've seen him in the Range Rover. I believe all the cars in the media pictures are his. I've seen him driving those vehicles," he said.

However, it is not known if the vehicles were registered under Ag Tahir's name.

It is learnt that the cars were seized from the house of one of his family members.

The nine luxury vehicles seized included a Range Rover V8 worth RM1.1million (S$363,580), Mercedes Benz C300 (RM308,000), Audi A1 (RM180,000) and Lexus ES (RM260,000).

Others familiar with Ag Tahir said he is from Sabah's south-western Bongowan in Papar district. He is not known to be a show-off although he did go on overseas holidays. He is a father of three - two daughters and one son - with the older daughter married with her own family.

Mr Teoh, 52, from whose house and office graft investigators seized some RM7.5 million cash and 127 land titles and grants, was described as a very low-profile officer who moved around in an old Toyota Vios.

He lives in a bungalow in Luyang and is from Sabah's south-western Beaufort district. He has made many trips to Australia and might have been planning to migrate.

An engineer by training, he is from a well-to-do Sabah family involved in construction, development and hotel businesses. Friends and associates describe him as a very helpful person who never flashed his wealth.

"He does not even wear a watch,'' a friend said.

Mr Teoh has been in the post for about four years and is also in charge of the department's west coast water operations.

Both men have been remanded for a week since Wednesday (Oct 5).

MACC officers have also arrested a contractor with the title of Datuk and his company accountant.

More arrests are expected as they try to trace money banked into a neighbouring country.