More parties to be called in Tourism Malaysia graft probe

The RM100m ‘Speedy Gonzales’ deal was allegedly inked just over a month before GE14

By NG MIN SHEN & RAHIMI YUNUS / Pic By BERNAMA

More parties are expected to be called to assist in the investigations into a RM100 million government contract, said former Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) chairman Wee Choo Keong.

Datuk Dr Siew Ka Wei — who succeeded Wee as Tourism Malaysia chairman in September 2016 and served until October 2018 —  and the CEO of a private company were remanded yesterday for four days to facilitate the probe into the aforementioned contract.

The contract was alleged to have been inked under suspicious circumstances during Siew’s tenure as head of the national tourism board.

“I believe there are more than these two people involved, especially high-ranking officers in Tourism Malaysia, as well as the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (Motac).

“I think more people will be called to give statements because (the case) is so clear,” Wee told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.

According to reports, the RM99.69 million contract between Tourism Malaysia and a local firm — dubbed the “Speedy Gonzales” deal — was alleged to have been signed just over a month prior to the 14th General Election (GE14) last year.

The contract was for the firm, believed to be based in Petaling Jaya and was said to be only five months old when it was awarded the deal, to act as a go-between for Tourism Malaysia and a Chinese firm to promote Malaysia via online campaigns.

“The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) already has all the documents. The paper trail is there,” Wee said, adding that he would certainly assist in the investigations, if called upon by the authorities.

He said the matter could not have taken place without approval from higher authorities, including those within the relevant ministries.

Wee, who served as Tourism Malaysia chairman from July 2015 until September 2016, had first raised the issue in a May 2018 blog post, alleging the deal was made against the ministry’s procurement regulations and concluded hastily without proper due diligence.

He also said in the same blog posting that the deal was evaluated, negotiated and sealed within one day.

The remand order until Jan 12 for Siew and the private company CEO was issued by Magistrate Irza Zulaikha Rohanuddin in the Putrajaya Court yesterday, following an application by the MACC, which had questioned the duo in Putrajaya on Tuesday (Jan 8).

The anti-graft body visited MOTAC in June last year to make inquiries over the contract and seize documents related to the deal.

Siew and the private firm CEO are being investigated on grounds of using one’s office or position for gratification. MACC deputy chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki said the duo are being investigated under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009.

In separate filings to Bursa Malaysia yesterday, Ancom Bhd, Ancom Logistics Bhd and Nylex (M) Bhd — all companies linked to Siew — confirmed that the MACC has remanded Siew to assist in its investigations into the deal during his tenure as Tourism Malaysia chairman.

Siew is currently the executive chairman of Ancom, executive vice-chairman of Ancom Logistics and group MD of Nylex — an Ancom subsidiary — as well as a substantial shareholder in both Ancom and Nylex.

“The board wishes to inform the shareholders and other stakeholders that the operations of the group remain unaffected by the above event. The group’s various operating units have been and are under the care of the various unit heads with proven track record,” all three companies said.

Shares of Ancom closed two sen or 4.08% lower at 47 sen yesterday, while Ancom Logistics shed one sen or 5.26% to settle at nine sen and Nylex lost two sen or 3.08% to close at 63 sen yesterday.