KOTA KINABALU: There were audible gasps and a flurry of excited photo-taking from the media upon entering the meeting room at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission office here and witnessing the obscene amount of wealth on display.
The commission had just announced the success of their latest and biggest haul ever ― RM52 million in cash plus other forms of valuables, confiscated from two Sabahan utility department officials ― one the director and the other his deputy who were allegedly abusing their position to award contracts to their family members.
Few people would have seen that much cash in their lifetime. There were stacks of RM100, RM50 and RM20 bills, laid out on several surfaces around the room, still sealed in plastic, packed in boxes.
There were at least five one-foot deep cardboard boxes, covering a three-metre long table, thrown into leather bags, and just strewn about in general.
“In the 49 years since the commission was set up, we have never seen this amount of money. The thought that this involves government servants is very bad,” said MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki.
Glittering gold jewellery of every design ― some still encased in velvet boxes, some casually lumped into plastic bags ― rings of precious stones, and branded watches were also showcased.
Any fashion-conscious lady would also be impressed and envious with the collection of 94 luxury brand bags ― Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Christian Dior, Bally, Fendi and more, gifted to the wives of the suspects.
There were also several folders, each holding a series of land grants, totally 127 all over Sabah.
The wealth was so mind-boggling it could not be totaled in the 1.5 days since it was seized.
The cash alone took the MACC team of 30 people 15 hours to go through, using the serial numbers to estimate some of the sealed stacks, all this while locked in a room.
“This RM52 million haul is at least five times as much as their last biggest cash haul of RM10 million,” he said.
The cash was seized from the offices and houses of the two men in Kota Kinabalu in a day-long raid yesterday (Tuesday), some were found in cupboards, and others stuffed into six safety deposit boxes.
“Judging from the haul, it is clear that they lived in absolute luxury,” he said.
Money was coming out of every nook and cranny, as pockets of RM5 million were also stashed in the nine luxury cars seized between them ― a Range Rover, Mercedes, Volvo, Lexus, Mazda, Audi, BMW, Fortuner and Ford Ranger.
There was also foreign currency from various countries totalling RM8.3 million including RM192,804 worth of Singaporean dollars, RM86,041 worth of British pounds, RM75,962 worth of US dollars and RM40,230 worth of Euros found in the director’s possession.
When asked why the money was kept in their homes and offices in cash, Azam said there was many theories as to why the two kept their money at home, but they could not be sure.
“Our objective is to prove that it was illegally gained and move so that the court can return the money to the country and its people,” he said.
Unseen was the money hidden in bank accounts ― RM23 million belonging to the the director and deputy director, and another RM37 million in an accounting firm’s account linked to the younger brother of the deputy director involved.
The MACC are also investigating leads that the duo are storing money overseas in a neighbouring country, though Azam declined to give details.
The identities of the two government officials have yet to be publicly declared as they are under a seven-day remand, along with the “Datuk” and his accountant, before they are potentially charged in court, but many are already speculating, given the few state utility departments.
- This article first appeared in the Malay Mail online. While the portal did not name the suspects, BorneoToday however named them as Sabah Water Department Director, Ag Mohd Tahir Mohd Talib, and his deputy, Teo Chee Kong, Teo’s 55-year old Datuk brother who is a businessman, and the Datuk’s 50-year old company accountant.