MACC freezes assets, cash on Leissner’s revelations

by AZREEN HANI & NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by BERNAMA

THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has taken steps to freeze about US$10 million (RM41.9 million) worth of assets and cash following the testimony made by former Goldman Sachs Inc banker Tim Leissner last week.

MACC chief Tan Sri Azam Baki (picture) said the case is currently being investigated under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001.

“We have called Rohana to record her statement and have taken steps to freeze related assets or cash,” Azam said in a press conference yesterday, referring to former Astro Holdings Bhd CEO Rohana Rozhan, whom Leissner claimed to have blackmailed him in exchange of silence on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) dealings.

“We will continue our efforts to investigate and return the related monies to our country,” he added.

“We will get further statements from the authorities in the US.”

The MACC, Azam said, also plans to question more individuals including those in the US on this matter.

On the allegation of transactions to bank accounts involving Datuk Tawfiq Ayman, the husband of former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Azam said MACC was only given the task to repatriate the sovereign investment company’s funds from Singapore.

“For all things related to the 1MDB scandal, there is a task force for all agencies involved, including MACC and the police.

“Our role in this matter is just to repatriate the money linked to 1MDB in Singapore,” he explained.

Last week, Tawfiq denied knowing Leissner nor receiving any bribes.

In the same press conference, the anti-graft agency head also announced that MACC has also frozen 126 bank accounts involving around RM4.5 million belonging to 97 individuals and 29 companies in a bitcoin mining syndicate stealing electricity nationwide.

The raid, a joint operation with national power provider Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) called Ops Power, has shut down 20 of the 998 premises operated by the syndicate and 18 people arrested. Enforcers also confiscated RM281,180 worth of cash.

TNB’s losses since 2018 from bitcoin miners amounted to nearly RM2.3 billion from 7,209 reported cases.

According to Azam, these individuals would bribe TNB technicians during their routine checks to turn a blind eye to power theft for bitcoin mining purposes.

“They would either offer a monthly cash payment or through cryptocurrency. For example, the value of a bribe is RM500 per premises. For 100 premises, it equals to RM50,000 per month.

“Investigations so far showed that the network offered between RM3,000 and RM300,000 to the technicians to keep silent about the mining ops, with a total of RM2.38 million had been given out across the 998 bitcoin mines,” he said.

Among other things confiscated by MACC were 1,157 graphics processing units valued at RM2.3 million in total, RM82,000 in e-wallets and US$25,893.46 in cryptocurrency used by the syndicate.

Five cars were also confiscated, listing their marques as a BMW, Honda Accord, Vellfire, Ford Ranger and an Audi.

“This bitcoin syndicate uses the latest bitcoin mining machines that were purchased from China brought in through Port Klang and declared as information technology equipment,” he said further.

Launched based on public information and complaints from TNB following an increase in cases of electricity theft from bitcoin mining activities. The strategic collaboration between TNB and MACC started in 2018.

MACC will conduct continuous monitoring to prevent such activities from continuing to spread for the benefit and good of all parties, at the same time, to curb the criminal activities of money laundering hiding under a bitcoin mining syndicate.

According to a Bernama report, six men are in remand for four days from today on suspicion of bribing a TNB officer of between RM500 and RM15,000 a month to obtain free electricity.