REE theft: MACC obtains new leads, to call up important witness

KUALA LUMPUR: Graft busters have obtained new leads and will call up an important individual to help in investigating the Rare Earth Elements (REE) issue in Kedah.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki said a thorough investigation was still being conducted and new statements had also been obtained.

Asked whether Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Noor would be called up so that his statement could be recorded, Azam said any further action depended on the progress and outcome of the investigation.

"We still have not called up the Mentri Besar as we must scrutinise all the new statements that we have obtained," he told a press conference after attending a ceremony to mark the conclusion of a MACC training course on Wednesday (Aug 9).

It was previously reported that a Perbadanan Menteri Besar (MBI) chief executive officer had been detained with a woman, a company director, for corruption and abuse of power in a probe over the theft of REE.

The two were detained by the MACC over the case, which allegedly involves bribes exceeding RM13mil.

According to sources, the 63- and 40-year-old suspects were arrested last month in Alor Setar and Kuala Lumpur.

"Mining activities carried out illegally by a company involved have received protection from certain authorities since 2020.

"In this regard, the investigation results detected that several payments amounting to over RM13mil were given to the companies involved as bribes to protect these illegal mining activities from 2020 to 2023," the source said.

It added that the company owned by the woman is believed to have received approval to develop cloned rubber tree plantations (TLC) in two compartments in Kedah in 2016.

"The project aims to replant log clone rubber trees in the logging areas involved. In 2020, the same company applied to the Kedah state government to conduct rare earth element (REE) mining activities in the same compartment," the source said, adding that, however, so far, no approval has been given by the state government regarding the company’s application to carry out the mining activity.

The MACC previously opened an investigation paper in connection with allegations of abuse of power involving a Mentri Besar in the issue of mining REE, believed to have been conducted illegally resulting in losses for a state government.

Sources said the issue of illegal mining and losses of natural resources had been reported by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in March and residents of Bukit Enggang Sik, where illegal mining was conducted on a large scale before it was thwarted by the authorities.

In January, Kedah Umno also called on the MACC to investigate and reveal whether there was political intervention in the issue of stolen REE, which resulted in huge losses to the country.

Recently, several individuals have come forward and lodged official reports to the MACC to investigate the issue of abuse of power and corruption involving a Mentri Besar following a viral letter on the application of foreign worker quota to the Home Ministry, for a so-called joint project between a state government with a local company as well as a company from China.

Sources said Kedah MACC started an investigation on the illegal mining of REE early this year and they have called up several witnesses but the progress of the investigation could not be ascertained.

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