KUALA LUMPUR: A controversial Malaysian former spy chief was remanded in custody Wednesday (Aug 29) over the alleged theft of funds intended to be used for a historic general election in May.
Hasanah Abdul Hamid, ex-head of Malaysia’s External Intelligence Organisation, was an ally of former leader Najib Razak, who was unexpectedly ejected from office at the polls amid allegations he and his cronies stole huge sums of public money.
There has been a purge of senior officials with links to the former government since the election upset, with the attorney-general and the head of the civil service among those losing their jobs.
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Hasanah was arrested on Tuesday by anti-corruption investigators probing the theft of the election funds from the prime minister’s department, which reports say amount to millions of ringgit.
The 61-year-old appeared in court Wednesday in the administrative capital Putrajaya and was remanded in custody for five days, an official from the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) told AFP.
“Hasanah is being investigated for abuse of power,” the official added.
Anti-graft investigators have this week arrested seven other officers from Hasanah’s agency, which worked directly under the prime minister’s department, as part of their probe into the missing money.
A businessman, who was in possession of more than US$4 million, was also arrested on Wednesday night.
The nine are accused of misappropriating US$12 million from the Malaysian government.
In a news conference on Thursday, MACC said it had seized a total of US$6.3 million, but was appealing for more information, promising witness protection.
The anti-graft body said it was investigating all leads including any connection to scandal-hit state investment firm 1MDB.
MACC’s deputy chief commissioner for operations Azam Baki said investigations into 1MDB were 60 per cent complete, with the remaining requiring cooperation with foreign countries including Singapore.
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Hasanah was at the centre of a controversy last month after a letter she wrote to the head of the CIA before the election leaked online.
In the letter, she urged the US to back Najib and said he was a friend of America, while describing Mahathir Mohamad – Malaysia’s new leader after triumphing in the election at the head of a reformist alliance – as “anti-West”.
Najib was accused of overseeing the theft of billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which he set up. Since his election loss, he has been arrested and charged over the scandal. He denies any wrongdoing.
Additional reporting by Sumisha Naidu.