By Ali Nufael and Hadi Azmi
Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency arrested and detained the nation’s former spy chief Tuesday on suspicion of misappropriation of election funds, officials said.
Hasanah Abdul Hamid, former director-general of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organization (MEIO), was detained after she was called in for questioning by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, according to Azam Baki, MACC’s deputy chief.
Hasanah’s detention was related to the recent arrest of seven high-ranking government officials accused of misusing public funds, Azam said in a statement.
“She was called in to assist us and we arrested her after initial findings showed that she was involved in misusing the money for election, together with the seven men we have arrested,” he said.
Hasanah’s lawyer, Shaharudin Ali, confirmed that the arrest took place.
“Yes, she will be taken to the court for remand,” Shaharudin told BenarNews.
Last month, Hasanah, 61, asked police to trace the leak of a secret letter she wrote to the CIA appealing for Washington’s support for the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, days before it was ousted in the May election.
Her arrest was not related to that controversial letter, her lawyer said.
On Monday, seven senior officials, including a deputy director-general of the MEIO, were brought to the Putrajaya magistrate’s court for remand, a source close to the investigation told BenarNews.
MACC seized laptops and luxury watches from the suspects, the source said, adding that investigators believe public funds were used to purchase those items. Authorities also froze several bank accounts belonging to the suspects, the source said.
“We do not know how much money exactly was missing, but we believe it is in millions of ringgit,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
Hasanah was expected to appear before a judge at the Putrajaya administrative capital on Wednesday and will be charged under Section 23 of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Act 2009 for abuse of power and using public position for personal gratification, the source said.
The charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
In her three-page letter dated May 4 – five days before the election that catapulted Mahathir Mohamad back to power – Hasanah asked for Washington’s support through Gina Haspel, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, saying Najib would be a stronger U.S. ally.
The letter described Mahathir, 93, as an autocrat and “anti-West and anti-Semite.”
Najib denied any knowledge of the letter, but officials in Mahathir’s government had called for a probe into why such a letter was sent to the CIA, saying the action might have violated Malaysia’s sovereignty.