A SCANDAL involving RM100 million (US$24.7 million) allegedly embezzled to purchase everything from luxury cars to designer handbags has put Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Ministry, and its presiding minister, on the defensive.
Last Friday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) arrested a senior ministry official for embezzling the aforementioned sum. Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin today insisted that he did not know about the wrongdoing, blaming the affair on lax oversight over government payments.
“No, no. I was not aware…as how I said before, the suspect abused the procedure that does not need higher approvals, meaning either the minister or the ministry’s chief secretary,” Khairy (popularly known as KJ) told reporters, according to the Malay Mail Online.
Khairy’s denials were slammed by some Twitter users:
In the face of growing outrage, Khairy pushed for an immediate review of the way his ministry handles and gives out payments, promising greater oversight and to close loopholes in procurement procedures.
“For [a] few years, the suspect abused procedures which does not need higher approvals and this is the weakness which we have identified,” he said, calling for an independent government task force to look for and eliminate similar loopholes.
Khairy promised full cooperation with Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency (the MACC).
Last Friday, the MACC arrested a 56-year-old senior official at the Youth and Sports Ministry. The agency believes that he siphoned about RM100 million mainly from the ministry’s coffers over the last six years.
Through their investigations, MACC officials seized an eye-popping amount of loot: 12 luxury cars, jewelry, high-end watches, designer handbags, and even paintings. They also froze 69 bank accounts containing a total of RM8.33 million in funds.
“The official led a lavish lifestyle and bought branded watches, with one that cost up to RM400,000. There was also jewellery worth RM600,000, bedding material costing RM300,000 as well as paintings and dozens of handbags,” said MACC investigations division director Datuk Azam Baki, reported AsiaOne.
“He also travelled overseas frequently, with his family flying first-class at RM80,000 each,” he added.
The scale of the scandal and the amount embezzled have some wondering if the suspect was the exception to the rule, or an accurate barometer of corruption in the country.
I don't think anyone is surprised at the latest RM100 million corruption scandal. I think we'd be surprised if this guy was the only one.
— Umapagan (@umapagan) March 20, 2016
As for Khairy, widely thought of as a possible future prime minister, he can only plead patience.
I will disclose what I can. Matter under investigation. So what I can, I will. https://t.co/8NuCZkKMoY
— Khairy Jamaluddin (@Khairykj) March 21, 2016