August 30, 2018 / 7:35 AM / 2 months ago

Eight Malaysian former spies under probe for graft

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A group of former agents from Malaysia’s foreign intelligence agency, including its chief, are being investigated for alleged misappropriation of government funds, a senior Malaysian anti-graft official said on Thursday.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission deputy chief commissioner, Azmi Baki, holds up a bundle of U.S. dollar notes totalling $1.6 million during a news conference in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, Malaysia August 30, 2018. REUTERS/Joseph Sipalan

The probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is the latest in a widening crackdown by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government on corruption allegedly linked to the administration of his predecessor, Najib Razak.

Earlier this week, the anti-graft agency arrested eight former officers of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO), including its former head Hasanah Abdul Hamid, on suspicion of misappropriating about $12 million in government funds.

“We are looking into possible abuse of power by the officers involved, and the misuse of funds, which we believe were government funds,” MACC’s deputy commissioner of operations Azam Baki said at a press conference.

Investigators have seized about $6.5 million in cash and valuables from various locations, including the MEIO’s headquarters at the prime minister’s office in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital.

A Malaysian businessman with permanent residence status in the United Kingdom has also been detained, Azam said, adding that investigators were still looking for the remainder of the funds.

He said authorities were still investigating the source of the funds, but did not rule out the possibility that the money was linked to billions of dollars allegedly stolen from Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

“Yes, we are looking into that angle also,” he said.

The money was believed to have been brought into Malaysia from another country, he said, declining to name the country.

Authorities in six countries, including Switzerland and the United States, are investigating how billions of dollars went missing from 1MDB, founded by Najib in 2009.

The U.S. Department of Justice says over $4.5 billion was misappropriated from the fund, with some of the money used to buy a private jet, a superyacht, Picasso paintings, jewellery and real estate.

Najib has been charged with money laundering and corruption offences related to about $10 million allegedly transferred into his bank account from a former unit of 1MDB. He has plead not guilty to the charges.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Michael Perry

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