Islamic affairs minister went shopping, golfing in US with orphanage’s cash, anti-graft group claims

NOW director Akmal Nasir claimed Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, the latter’s wife and their entourage had travelled to the US in May last year under the guise of an official charity programme, but instead had gone on a shopping spree and played golf for most of the eight-day trip. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 13 — Charity organisation Yayasan Pembangunan Ekonomi Islam Malaysia (Yapeim) had funded a federal minister’s shopping trip in the US last year using donations meant for an orphanage, a PKR-linked anti-corruption group alleged today.

Continuing its exposés on alleged power abuse by Yapeim, National Oversight and Whistleblower (NOW) director Akmal Nasir also claimed the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom (photo), the latter’s wife and their entourage had travelled to the US in May last year under the guise of an official charity programme organised by the state-linked charity agency, but instead had gone on a shopping spree and played golf for most of the eight-day trip.

Akmal said official documents of the programme obtained by NOW showed that while Yapeim deemed the trip as a means to “strengthen” the charity body’s work, payment was instead made among others for a golf game, gift shopping and a trip to a factory outlet store in Washington DC that sells luxury goods.

The trip, funded by Yayasan Pembangunan Anak Yatim/Miskin (Pemangkin), which is an institution under Yapeim’s watch, had cost more than RM410,000, Akmal claimed. “I am quite certain that this exposé can reach beyond the imagination of the rakyat how an Islamic foundation under the watch of the prime minister can be abused for a minister’s activities like playing golf or shopping and all.

“NOW, with this, demand a thorough investigation where the spendings of Yapeim and other institutions under Yapeim are checked and audited openly,” Akmal told a press conference at the group’s office here. In copies of receipts of payments for the Yapeim US programme, the foundation was said to have funded a trip to three locations — Washington DC, Iowa and Minnesota.

The trip took place from May 21 to May 29, 2015. Out of the schedule, four days were spent on a “VVIP” trip to Leesburg Corner Premium Outlet, a factory outlet store that sells luxury goods at discounted prices. Transportation fees to the outlet cost close to RM6,000, according to the receipt.

Akmal noted that Pemangkin’s director is the former Kelantan Umno Wanita chief who was implicated in another power abuse allegation during the Rompin by-election in Pahang earlier this year.

The Wanita Umno leader, who is also the chairman and director of Yapeim, was accused of siphoning RM223,000 of the foundation’s money, purportedly to help Barisan Nasional’s (BN) election campaign. She was also appointed to the post by Jamil Khir, Akmal pointed out.

“For Jamil Khir Baharom, if he still has dignity, he should resign immediately and apologise openly to Malaysians because he had abused money meant for poor orphans donated by the public,” Akmal said.

Akmal demanded that Jamil Khir and the top two heads of Pemangkin, who also head the Yapeim board, return every sen they took from Yapeim, including their salaries, allowances and overseas spending. Senator Datuk Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki told Malay Mail Online yesterday the federal government has no direct involvement in the operations of Yapeim or knowledge of the alleged mismanagement at the entity. Yapeim director-general Datuk Abibullah Samsudin said in a statement yesterday that it was ready to be investigated over claims of mismanagement.

Yapeim was a charity set up by the federal government in 1976 and placed under the purview of the prime minister, with special attention from Jamil Khir. Akmal had said that more than half a million Malaysians have joined Yapeim’s monthly salary cut scheme to donate their money and estimated that the charity will receive RM65.73 million this year from public donations. – Malay Mail Online

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