PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is widening its investigation into the alleged misappropriation of US$12mil (RM49.3mil) worth of government funds involving a little-known spy agency.
It has already made nine arrests as it looks into unravelling the web of intrigue involving Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, the former director-general of the Malaysian External Investigation Organisation (MEIO).
The anti-graft investigators are probing if the senior intelligence officers had “help” to bring in US$12mil – believed to be from a Middle East source – into the country.
The cash was believed to have been brought in via air, possibly through Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Highly placed sources in the anti-graft body said this angle needed to be looked into as it would be difficult to carry such a staggering amount of money undetected.
Malaysian laws require those bringing in US$10,000 and above into the country to have it declared at the point of entry.
“Obviously, there was a breach of security because the cash was brought in without raising alarms of the authorities at the airport.
“We want to investigate if those who brought in the money had some assistance so that they need not declare it,” a source told The Star.
Following the remand of officers from the MEIO as well as its former chief Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, investigators found out that the money was brought into the country three months ago in May.
“The timing suggests that the cash was for the general election. But the other question is why the officers had their hands on the money,” said the same source.
Investigators are also not discounting the possibility that the funds could be from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
“We will have to probe deeper before coming to a conclusion,” the source added.
Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Seri Azam Baki said there was a possibility that the money was brought into the country through the airport.
“Whatever the entry point is, we would like to know how it passed through security. Obviously that would be one angle of investigation,” he said.
Azam said his officers could still manage the investigation but if the need arises, it would seek assistance from other authorities.
Hasanah and seven other former MEIO officers were arrested earlier this week, and a ninth arrest was made on Wednesday night involving a 47-year-old businessman.
The businessman, who has a “Datuk” title and is also a permanent resident of Britain, was arrested in Kota Baru at 11pm on Wednesday.
The MACC has so far recovered US$6.3mil (RM25.9mil) of the US$12mil that was brought into the country about three months ago, as well as RM900,000 in ringgit.
The bulk of the US currency, about US$4.07mil (RM16.7mil), was seized from the businessman.
“We have raided several locations, including a rented condominium in Cyberjaya and the Prime Minister’s Department, where we seized the cash along with other valuable items including a luxury watch.
“Our swoop on the suspects began on Monday and we are not ruling out the possibility of making more arrests in the future,” Azam told a press conference at the MACC headquarters earlier yesterday.
The MACC has already called several witnesses, including three foreigners, and at least 20 more witnesses will be tracked down and called to assist with the investigation, he said.
MEIO was listed as the “research division” of the Prime Minister’s Department under the previous Barisan Nasional administration.
“Initial investigations revealed that the funds were brought into the country about three months ago,” said Azam.
“We are investigating whether this was before or after the last general election (on May 9).
“We are also investigating the source of the funds and which country the money came from.”
And despite its widening scope, the MACC is hoping to wrap up its investigation within two months as long as it does not involve a complicated money trail or require any foreign assistance, he added.
Hasanah was arrested at the MACC headquarters at 4.15pm on Tuesday after she arrived to give a statement to the anti-graft body.
She had previously courted controversy after writing a letter to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Gina Haspel, appealing to the United States to support former premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s administration.
She and the seven officers are also being investigated under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 for abuse of power.