MACC detains 19 district engineers, seizes RM4.2m (Updated)

KOTA KINABALU: Nineteen engineers who are district heads of the Sabah Water Department (SWD) were nabbed on Wednesday by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) as investigations into a multi-million ringgit graft scandal progresses into the second phase.

MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Azam Baki said his officers recovered about RM4.2 million in cash and froze RM3.6 million found in the bank accounts of several of those arrested.

He said the operation was launched simultaneously at 27 locations across Sabah where the 19 officials, aged between 29 and 59, were picked up for allegedly receiving kickbacks of between 27% and 30% of the value of SWD projects and emergency response work awarded to contractors.

The MACC also seized scores of documents and are recording statements from the engineers.

Azam said all 19 were remanded for between four and seven days.

He said to date, investigations do not point to the involvement of any politician at either state or federal level.

"We urge all quarters not to speculate, politicise or take advantage of this case for their own interest. We give our assurance the probe will be carried out with transparency and professionally. There is a huge number of documents we seized that are being perused by our officers. This will take some time before we are ready to submit our findings to the Attorney-General Chambers for further action," he said.

Between Saturday and Monday, two senior SWD officials aged 51 and 54; a businessman who is a Datuk, and his accountant, aged 50 and 55 respectively; and a former senior Sabah state official in his 60s were freed on bail by the MACC after spending between four and two weeks in remand.

On Oct 5, the arrest of a SWD director and his deputy by the MACC saw the biggest haul of a whopping RM52.2 million in cash ever made in the history of graft-busting in Malaysia.

The value of the seizure in that case rose to almost RM150 million within days after the bust, when the MACC uncovered more cash, jewellery, land titles, luxury cars and merchandise from the suspects and their families.

The detained SWD officials had allegedly practised nepotism and raked in tens of million of ringgit in kickbacks by awarding government tenders for infrastructure work to their families. The duo were also found to own 38 companies between them that were registered under the names of their family members or proxies.

Both men were suspended from their positions pending investigations soon after they were released on bail.

Meanwhile, senior government officer Willis @ Mojiron Ansoi has been named as the new director for the SWD.

In a statement issued today, Sabah State Secretary Tan Sri Sukarti Wakiman said that a letter of transfer had been issued to Willis.

"He will commence his new post effective tomorrow," said the statement.

The 58-year-old engineer, who graduated from Universiti Malaya in 1986 with a degree in civil engineering, previously served as Sabah Public Works Department deputy director.