Couple charged with graft

KUALA LUMPUR: An ex-aide to a former tourism minister and his fiancee have claimed trial in the Sessions Court here to 18 counts of corruption involving more than RM3mil relating to the ministry’s branding and advertising contracts.

Mohd Saifullah Mohd Minggu @ Mohd Hisham, 29, who was a senior private secretary to former tourism, arts and culture minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, pleaded not guilty after the charges were read out yesterday.

According to the first to the 14th charge sheets, Saifullah allegedly accepted bribes totalling RM2,871,500 in 14 different transactions from Ronald Seto Kong Seng, 48, the owner of Syarikat Inter Bev Network Sdn Bhd.

The monies were said to be a reward for the accused to help the company win three tenders on creative branding and advertising space from the ministry.

For the 15th to 17th charges, Saifullah is accused of soliciting and receiving RM20,015 in bribes from Seto for the deposit and rental of a unit at Vipod Residences, Jalan Kia Peng, and receiving another RM5,500 for rent at the same unit.

For the 18th charge, the accused allegedly received RM232,000 from Seto for the same purpose of helping the company obtain the contracts. All of the monies were allegedly handed over through middlemen, including his fiancee.

The offences were allegedly committed at various locations, including the ministry’s Putrajaya office and Vipod Residences between Jan 19 and July 29, 2019.

The charges under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act 2009 carry up to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of no less than five times the amount of gratification or RM10,000, whichever is higher, upon conviction.

Saifullah’s fiancee Nurfadziana Abdul Kadir, 28, was also brought to court for allegedly abetting him in receiving the RM232,000. She pleaded not guilty.

Deputy public prosecutor Farah Yasmin Salleh did not offer bail for Saifullah.

She said an MACC investigating officer stated in an affidavit that it was difficult to track down the accused.

“Based on this, there is a high possibility that the accused will abscond and not cooperate with the court,” she said.

Lawyer Md Yunos Shariff, who represented both the accused, however said his client had surrendered himself to the MACC the minute he knew the anti-graft body was looking for him for investigation.

“It was stated in the affidavit that my client surrendered on Aug 14 and it did not state that my client was avoiding or running away from the MACC,” he said.

He also asked for a lower bail on grounds that his client was unemployed.

Judge Azman Ahmad fixed bail at RM200,000 in one surety for Saifullah and RM100,000 in one surety for Nurfadziana.

The two were also ordered to surrender their passports and report monthly to the MACC.

The case is set for mention on Sept 23.

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