Azalina questioned about RM300,000 payment
Former cabinet minister Azalina Othman has been questioned by MACC, the anti-corruption agency, about a payment of RM300,000 made to her by a company linked to the aborted “Crooked Bridge” project as revealed by anonymous blogger Whistleblower711 last week.
The New Straits Times, in a report this morning, said Azalina spent several hours at the MACC headquarters on Monday. The NST report did not name Azalina, and quoted unnamed sources.
It also erroneously said that the blogosphere had claimed that Azalina received “contributions amounting to the sum”.
However, Whistleblower711 had published the image of a single CIMB cheque for RM300,000 with payment made out in Azalina’s name.
Last week, the blogger said that the MACC’s chief commissioner had promised that all his allegations would be investigated.
Azalina is the second Umno politician and fourth government person to be named regarding payments from companies owned by Yahya Abdul Jalil, treasurer of Umno Pasir Gudang in Johor, who is the businessman at the centre of the “Crooked Bridge” controversy.
Azalina is a member of Umno’s supreme council, and MP for Pengerang.
Others implicated so far: deputy finance minister senator Awang Adek, former MP for Bachok, Kelantan; Mohd Po’ad Jelani and Mohd Shukor Abd Manan, the private secretaries of the prime minister and deputy prime minister respectively. Awang Adek told journalists that the payments he received were contributions for social work in his former constituency. The private secretaries have not made any public response.
All have been tangled in the web of Umno connections surrounding the “Crooked Bridge”, planned in the 1990s to replace the Malaysian half of the Johor Causeway, and heavily backed by Mahathir Mohamad, then prime minister, the Johor palace and Johor Umno, but cancelled by the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government.
Mahathir has continued to push for the revival of the multi billion ringgit project. As recently as last month, Johor Umno information chief Puad Zarkashi said a memorandum had been handed to the federal government.
Puad is MP for Batu Pahat, as well as deputy education minister. The education minister is Muhyiddin Yassin, deputy prime minister, who was menteri besar of Johor until 1995 at the time the bridge was first mooted. The current menteri besar is Ghani Othman.
Pasir Gudang Umno is headed by Khaled Nordin, minister for higher education and MP for Pasir Gudang, and a former political secretary to Shahrir Samad, who became Shahrir’s successor as MP for Johor Baru in 1990. (Shahrir returned as MP for Johor Baru in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008.)
Khaled joined the federal cabinet as deputy works minister in 1999. After the 2004 election he became minister for entrepreneur development, and in 2009 minister for higher education. He has been MP for the new Pasir Gudang constituency since 2004.
The Umno-linked company Gerbang Perdana, of which Yahya Jalil is managing director, was awarded the project. When it was subsequently cancelled by the Abdullah Ahmad Badawi government after Mahathir retired, Gerbang Perdara received a RM470 million highway project and then became embroiled in controversy when its claim for compensation payment ballooned to RM360 million. This led to a public spat between the the Works Minister, then S Samy Vellu, and Parliament’s public accounts committee, chaired by Johor Baru MP Shahrir Samad.
As part of preparations for the bridge, Gerbang Perdana built the RM250m Customs, immigration and quarantine complex in the heart of Johor Baru. (The complex is now known as the Sultan Iskandar building after the late sultan.)
Yahya’s own company Advance Maintenance Precision Management Sdn Bhd, was awarded the contract to carry out maintenance services on the complex and at Johor Sentral, the transport hub built at the same time.