Tighter checks at airport VIP lanes following ex-MEIO chief arrest

Hidir Reduan and Siti Nur Zawani Miscon

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has been ordered to tighten checks at VIP lanes at the country’s airports. The Transport Ministry has ordered the increased scrutiny following the New Straits Times’ exclusive report that such lanes at airports had been used to funnel US$12 million (RM49 million) into Malaysia. In the exclusive report, sources told NST that the funds belong to the government but found its way surreptitiously to the office of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation (MEIO). Transport Minister Anthony Loke said that they view the matter seriously and have instructed MAHB to beef up airport security, especially in terms of VIP lanes and lounges. “We have directed MAHB to review the SOP (standard operating procedure) of the VIP lanes. I ordered MAHB to tighten the procedures for VIPs to use VIP lanes. “In the previous government, usage of VIP lanes and VIP rooms, they do not need to go through security checks. They just use the VIP lanes. It was a bit lax. “We have ordered MAHB to tighten up all VIP lanes (at airports). “They are still VIP lanes, but usage of these lanes have to be more regulated,” he said.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook (right) with the ministry’s deputy secretary-general Mohd Khairul Adib during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur. Pic by SYARAFIQ ABD SAMAD

Loke was addressing a press conference at the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) here on Tuesday. He noted that the increased scrutiny was necessary as only a select few people can use these lanes such as officers and those from ministries. He reiterated that these tightened procedures are necessary to ensure not just anybody could go through them. “Before this, with regards to hand luggage brought to VIP lanes, we were made to understand that inspection was not particularly tight. “Now we want to tighten checks on hand luggage. “That is something that we realised after revelation from the arrest (of Hasanah). “We found there had been millions of foreign currency brought in via our airports. This is something we are looking into.” According to NST’s exclusive report, the money was brought into the country sometime in mid-April, just one week before the 14th general election, allegedly to fund the polls. This developing case has since led the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to arrest Datuk Hasanah Abdul Hamid, who is former chief of MEIO. Also arrested were her deputy, who is also a Datuk, and six other officers.
Sources had told the NST that the money was brought into the country all at once through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The Putrajaya magistrates court released Hasanah from remand on Monday. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd