31 March, 2007

Chieft of anti-graft agency leaves office under corruption allegation cloud

Malaysia's top-anti graft official left office Saturday facing corruption allegations, but the government bid him farewell with a commendation of his leadership and "proactive" work.

In a statement released through the official Bernama news agency, the government said it was not renewing the employment contract of Zulkipli Mat Noor, head of the Anti-Corruption Agency, when it expired Saturday.

The statement, issued late Friday, expressed the government's "highest gratitude and thanks" to Zulkipli for his services during the six years he held the post.

"Under the leadership of (Zulkipli), various proactive and renewal efforts were undertaken including upgrading the network of collaboration at the international level," the statement said.

Zulkipli is being investigated by national police over allegations he illegally amassed substantial property and assets and misused government vehicles.

He has not been available for comment since the controversy began.

Zulkipli has denied the allegations to police. Police have questioned 21 witnesses including Mohamad Ramli Manan, a former state director at the Anti-Corruption Agency, who first made the corruption allegations.

The case has become an embarrassment for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who promised to crack down on corrupt officials when he took power in 2003. Malaysia was ranked 44th in Transparency International's corruption index last year, an improvement of seven places from 2003.

Zulkipli, 57, joined the Royal Malaysian Police in 1949 as an officer in the Special Branch and later became its head. He was appointed chief of the Anti-Corruption Agency on April 1, 2001, on a two-year contract. It was extended three times until he reached retirement age in July 2005.

Subsequently, the contract was extended for one year until July 20, 2006, and once again for about nine months until March 31, 2007, the statement said. It did not explain why the last contract was for less than a year.

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