PUTRAJAYA: UMNO Grassroots Movement (GAUM) chairman Datuk Zulkarnain Mahdar today rubbished claims there was an element of of selective prosecution against Parti Warisan Sabah leaders.

He said the alleged embezzlement case involving projects under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry had been raised in 2011 and were not only raised now.

"This was reported by an opposition-friendly portal, Malaysiakini, quoting Kota Kinabalu member of Parliament (DAP) Dr Hiew King Cheu in 2011," he told reporters after submitting new information including documents to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) on the embezzlement case.

The matter was also reported to the MACC and the police by the opposition back then, he added.

In this respect, he said, the oppositions' accusation that the prime minister and the Sabah chief minister had ordered for the probe to be carried out just because the general election was drawing near were unfounded.

"They claim that this is a clear sign that the Barisan Nasional is afraid of Parti Warisan Sabah, which is illogical.

"I am part of the election machinery and we are ready to face Parti Warisan Sabah in the coming general election," he said.

Zulkarnain said he had been told by the MACC that it would take time for any action to be taken relating to the case .

"It was only a coincidence that things started to happen this year, about six years later," he said.

He believed the MACC would still swoop into action even if former Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal was still in office.

Shafie is the Parti Warisan Sabah president and his younger brother had been detained by the MACC to assist in the investigations into the embezzlement case.

Up to 350 projects under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry in Sabah were reported to be on the MACC's radar over allegations of the embezzlement of RM 1.5 billion of federal funds meant for rural development projects in the state.

The projects were carried out between 2010 and 2016 in nine districts in the state-Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Kota Belud, Ranau, Beaufort, Keningau, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Sandakan.

The MACC has estimated that RM1.5 billion was siphoned off out of the RM7.5 billion allocated for projects in Sabah involving water, electricity and road infrastructure development.

It is learnt that the Ministry awarded the projects to 260 companies – but initial investigations by the MACC have revealed that the selection of 65 of the companies was made under dubious circumstances, as some were awarded with more than two projects.

The MACC recently had revealed that more than 60 companies were now under investigation and 32 witnesses from various backgrounds have been identifed to facilitate in the probe.

On his visit to the MACC, Zulkarnain said he could not divulge details of the information he had submitted to the anti-graft buster.

"The MACC has told me that they will look through what I have given them today and I am ready to cooperate with the commission (if the need arises)."

Should there be more new information or evidence warranted for investigations to be carried, Zulkarnain said he would bring it to the MACC.

He said issues relating to Shafie's former ministry came to light because the ex-minister had kept those in Sabah in the dark of projects being carried out in the state.

"Unlike the current minister (Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob), whohas formed a taskforce with Sabah (to monitor things related to the ministry's projects)," he said.

He said problems would happen when there was no monitoring mechanism in place.

Shafie, he added, could have prevented such predicaments from happening if he had acted as the current Rural and Regional Development Minister had done.

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UMNO Grassroots Movement (GAUM) chairman Datuk Zulkarnain Mahdar (centre) at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Building in Putrajaya today. Pix by Abd Rahim Rahmat

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