KOTA KINABALU • Sabah opposition leader and former Malaysian Cabinet minister Mohd Shafie Apdal was arrested by the anti-graft commission yesterday as it investigates if RM1.5 billion (S$482 million) in government funds had been siphoned off while he was rural development minister.
Datuk Seri Shafie, 60, was detained at 9pm yesterday, reported The Star, after nearly four hours of questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) at its office in Kota Kinabalu. He is expected to be taken to the High Court today to be remanded.
Parti Warisan Sabah deputy president Darell Leiking confirmed the arrest and said Mr Shafie was accepting of it. "His request is that everyone remains calm, don't act out, yell or get emotional. He wants to respect the law and due process," the Malay Mail Online quoted him as saying.
Mr Shafie had made his way to the MACC office after flying in from Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon. Cries of "Sabah Ubah" or "Sabah Change" rang out at Kota Kinabalu International Airport from the 300-strong crowd that was waiting to greet him, reported the Malay Mail Online.
According to the news site, Mr Shafie, who is the president of Warisan, said: "It's important that we do not obstruct any law. I know the MACC is doing their job. I am seeing them with a clear heart and mind and not afraid to answer any questions to the best of my knowledge but I ask that I be fairly treated."
The agency has detained 10 people in the rural aid case so far, including Warisan office-bearers, members of ruling party Umno, and Mr Shafie's brothers Hamid and Yusof Apdal.
Datuk Yusof, a state assemblyman who is Umno chief for Silam in Sabah, remains in custody, while Mr Hamid was released on bail yesterday.
Mr Shafie, MP for Semporna and former Umno strongman, has claimed that the investigations are part of "political assassination" moves to destroy him, and that these attempts have been afoot since he left Umno and set up Warisan last year.
MACC chief Dzulkifli Ahmad had previously stressed the agency's investigation was about alleged corruption and abuse of power. "Look at who we have arrested. We have detained not only Warisan members, but also Umno members. Our investigation is based on evidence, not political parties. This is beyond politics," The Malaysian Insight news site reported him as saying.
The probe centres on some 70 projects to provide roads, water and electricity to rural areas in Sabah between 2009 and 2015, when Mr Shafie headed the Rural and Regional Development Ministry. The projects were worth RM7.5 billion and funded by the federal government.
Over 45 people have been questioned since the probe began two weeks ago. Mr Shafie's party has been preparing for his possible arrest since then, with Mr Leiking likely to step in as acting president. Warisan's struggle will continue even if Mr Shafie is detained, said Mr Leiking yesterday, before the arrest.
"This is not about him nor is it about me or any other individual. This is about the cause," he said. According to The Malaysian Insight, one of Warisan's objectives is to fight for the rights of Sabahans.