70 investigation papers prepared on Penang JPJ protection racket, says MACC

Three waves of arrests have been made in what could be the biggest blitz MACC has made on a government agency to date. (Bernama pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) says it is at the tail-end of investigations into a protection racket involving lorry drivers who flouted traffic laws in Penang.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Azam Baki, however, added that the commission needs more time to wrap up the matter, noting that about 70 investigation papers (IPs) have been prepared.

“We have to complete each investigation paper according to procedure and also our SOP (standard operating procedures). So (this) will take some time,” he told reporters after the closing ceremony of an anti-corruption training session for officers of MACC’s Thai counterpart at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Academy here.

“I expect that after this Raya or before Raya there may be some cases that we can take to court,” he said, adding that other cases related to the matter still need approval from the deputy public prosecutor’s office.

He also confirmed that the director of the Penang Road Transport Department (JPJ) had been called up to give his statement.

There have been three waves of arrests so far in what is possibly the biggest blitz the anti-graft agency has made on a government agency to date, with more than 50 JPJ officers detained since April 17.

More than 100 people were interrogated, including 75 of the 139 enforcement officers on the Penang JPJ staff, FMT earlier reported.

MACC sources said the suspects were believed to have received monthly bribes of between RM10,000 and RM32,000 from lorry drivers and haulage firms in return for ignoring violations of transport regulations.

They also said these lorries carried stickers to show JPJ officers that they were driven or owned by clients of the syndicate.

They said the stickers were produced by a “tonto” operation. In law enforcement lingo, “tonto” refers to a middleman in criminal activities or an informer paid by criminals.

These tontos would also warn lorry drivers of JPJ roadblocks before they were set up, the sources added.

Meanwhile, Azam confirmed that MACC had reopened its investigation into the Taman Rimba Kiara condominium project.

He said it was wrong for some quarters to say MACC had not acted on previous reports lodged.

He said MACC had investigated the matter when it was brought to its attention and that his investigating officers had been tasked with getting more information from certain parties.

“We will present this case as quickly as possible to the deputy public prosecutor to be studied,” he said, adding however that he could not provide a timeframe.

“Give me some time first,” he said when asked.

It was reported that the Taman Rimba Kiara development project was listed as one of 273 projects given development order approvals prior to the gazettement of the City Plan 2020.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad had since said the development of high-rise condominium blocks there would be cancelled should authorities find elements of corruption linked to the project.

“If they find elements of abuse of power, corruption or misappropriation, then the project will become illegal automatically.

“So, if it’s illegal due to proven elements of corruption, the developer cannot demand any compensation as being involved in such activities is against the law,” he said last year.

Calls have since been made for Khalid to address the issue of conflict of interest as he is also the chairman of Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan, the owner of the land. The foundation has come under scrutiny by NGO Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism.