Former Minister Arrested Over RM1.5 Billion Sabah Graft Probe. Here's All You Should Know

MACC has arrested a total of 11 people, including Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, to facilitate their investigations.

Cover image via Borneo Today

Parti Warisan Sabah president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal was arrested over alleged misappropriation of RM1.5 billion funds from rural infrastructure development projects in Sabah yesterday, 19 September

Shafie was brought in to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) office yesterday for questioning over projects implemented between 2009 and 2015 when he was the Rural and Regional Development Minister. MACC is investigating the alleged embezzlement of RM1.5 billion of government funds meant for rural development projects.

The former UMNO vice-president was arrested by MACC at 9pm, after the anti-graft agency had questioned him for about four hours. His arrest came just hours before he turns 60 today, 20 October. 

The arrest of the former Cabinet minister is the most high-profile one made by MACC since the probes began. MACC is expected to obtain a remand order today to hold him for four days to assist in its investigation.

Here are some key developments in this billion-ringgit graft case so far:

1. Shafie is the 11th person to be arrested by MACC in its ongoing investigation

Lahad Datu assemblyman Datuk Yusof Apdal (second from right) was arrested to facilitate ongoing investigations.

Image via Mohd Adam Arini/NST

The other ten individuals who were arrested by MACC in connection to the case include:

• Shafie's brother, Hamid Apdal (released on RM50,000 MACC bail)
• Another sibling of Shafie, Lahad Datu assemblyman Datuk Yusof Apdal (remanded for four days starting 19 October)
• Hamid's son-in-law Manzur Hussein Alam Khan (released on MACC bail)
• Tenom UMNO Youth chief Jamawi Jaafar (released on MACC bail)
• Tawau UMNO Youth Chief Ariffin (released on MACC bail)
• Warisan Youth chief Datuk Mohd Azis Jamman (released on MACC bail)
• Warisan vice-president Datuk Peter Anthony (released on RM50,000 MACC bail)
• Warisan media representative Armarjit Singh (released on MACC bail)
• Local contractor Yu Sin Kong (released on MACC bail)
• A 40-year old former deputy undersecretary (infrastructure) from the rural and regional development ministry (released on MACC bail)

2. Shafie previously said that the probe is an attempt to destroy him politically

Prior to this, the former Cabinet minister turned opposition leader reportedly said that the ongoing Sabah graft probes is "political assassination" directed at him ever since he quit UMNO in July 2016 to set up Warisan.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has denied claims that MACC's move to investigate the case linked to the Rural and Regional Development Ministry in Sabah as politically motivated.

"In this matter, I believe we are sufficiently transparent. It does not have political elements," Ahmad Zahid was quoted as saying in a report by The Malaysian Insight on 6 October.

Shafie lost his position as the Rural and Regional Development Minister in 2015 after a Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He was one of the five ministers who were dropped from the Cabinet. The other four who were left out of the Cabinet reshuffle were: Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Datuk Seri Palanivel Govindasamy, Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin, and Datuk Seri Hasan Malek.

3. The RM1.5 billion was said to be part of RM7.5 billion project funds for Sabah

According to media reports, the RM1.5 billion funds were intended to finance projects to improve basic amenities (such as upgrading of water and electricity supply, repair of roads, and food programmes) for the underprivileged in Sabah.

It was reported that about 350 projects under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry are being investigated by the MACC over allegations of embezzlement. MACC has frozen some RM170 million in bank accounts and assets of companies involved in some 70 projects (out of the original list of 350 projects).

New Straits Times (NST) reported MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki as saying that the agency launched an investigation into the case following a public tip-off after the Sabah State Water Department corruption scandal.

"We have our own whistle-blowers. They came forward and told MACC about irregularities in rural projects," he was quoted as saying.

4. The Sungai Intan water treatment plant is among the projects being investigated by MACC

MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad (second from left) visited the Sungai Intan water treatment plant to inspect the site recently.

Image via Edmund Samunting/NST

Media reports revealed that the Sungai Intan Water Treatment Plant (LRA) project in Semporna, built by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry (KKLW) in 2013 should supply water to thousands of residents of Kampung Sungai Intan and surrounding areas.

It was supposed to solve the woes of people in the area, who have been waiting for more than 30 years for treated water supply. However, they have continued to rely on digging wells for water as the plant failed to function due to insufficient water.

“The residents are forced to depend on well water and only receive treated water once or twice a week," said MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Dzulkifli Ahmad, as reported by The Borneo Post.

Dzulkifli added that MACC is investigating other projects in Semporna, aside from the Sungai Intan water treatment plant project.

This is a developing story. Check back for latest updates.

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