KL’s top cop denies minister’s claim that police handled S$4m ransom payment
PUTRAJAYA — Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar denied on Friday (June 17) that the police had received the RM12 million (S$4 million) ransom raised to secure the freedom of four Sarawakians abducted by Abu Sayyaf militants.
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar denied on Friday (June 17) that the police had received a RM12 million (S$3.95 million) ransom raised to secure the release of four Sarawakians abducted by Abu Sayyaf militants, contradicting an earlier account by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that the money was handed over to the Police Special Branch.
Mr Khalid claimed that the money was handed directly to an unknown “third party” who helped to negotiate the release of the hostages.
“I am denying that the Special Branch had received the money,” he told reporters. “I don’t know and I don’t want to know,” he added, when asked if the police are aware who the recipients of the money are.
Mr Zahid, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs and oversees the police force, said on Thursday that the RM12 million ransom collected from the Malaysian public and from the hostages’ families selling assets, was paid to unidentified Filipino welfare groups, and not to the militants who abducted the Sarawakians.
Mr Zahid also said that the money was “given to the PDRM Special Branch”, using the initials for the Royal Malaysia Police, which then purportedly channelled the money to certain bodies in the Philippines.
The Deputy Premier declined to reveal the names of the recipients, but said they are legal bodies, some dealing with welfare and other various legal activities.
Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines recently launched joint patrols in the Sulu and Celebes seas, which together form a key waterway between the three countries, after a recent surge of kidnappings by the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group. The group has earned many millions of dollars from kidnapping foreigners and locals in the region since the early 1990s.
The group seized brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Teck Chii, 29, their cousin Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, from a ship near Ligitan, a small island off the eastern coast of Sabah, on April 1, while the vessel was en route to Tawau, Sabah, after sending a cargo of wood to Manila. On the morning of June 8, the four sailors (who hail from Sarawak) were taken to a boat and travelled to Sabah, where they were told by seven armed men that they were safe.
An uncle of one of the freed hostages revealed on Wednesday that RM12 million was raised to ransom the four men, and the money was given to the Malaysian police on May 24.
On Thursday, Malaysian authorities were also verifying media reports from the Philippines claiming that another four Malaysians were abducted by Filipino militants off the east coast of Sabah, just days after the four Sarawakians were released.
Mr Stephen Wong, a Sabah lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Action Party, on Friday urged Mr Zahid to identity the Filipino groups that were given the RM12 million. He said the government’s move was incomprehensible given that RM1 million of the amount was raised by family members who mortgaged their homes.
“How can they give away the money to these organisations which was meant to be used to release the hostages? If the police indeed did not pay a ransom, but secured the release through negotiations, then congratulations. But then the money should be returned to the families,” he said.
“Why should they hide the names of the organisations, and when did they give the money away? This is very fishy. Are the groups in some way connected to the kidnappers? They have to be transparent, the public cannot accept such a statement,” added Mr Wong. AGENCIES