Redberry Media owner remanded over RM100m tourism contract

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Ancom Bhd executive chairman Datuk Siew Ka Wei. (Tourism Ministry pic)

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 – The man behind Redberry Media Group, a media organisation involved in online news and advertising, was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and remanded today over a RM100 million tourism contract awarded just prior to the 14th general election.

Ancom Bhd executive chairman and former Tourism Malaysia chairman Siew Ka Wei was remanded for four days by Magistrate Irza Zulaika Rohanuddin, The Malaysian Insight reported.

Redberry, which publishes Malay Mail, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ancom. Redberry’s other assets include out-of-home (OOH) platforms such as cinemas advertising, airports, billboards along major highways, rail advertising, digital-out-of-home screens, buses plying major urban centres and retail network.

Aside from the 62-year-old Siew, MACC also arrested the owner of a private firm, Elizabeth Ken, 32. She too was remanded for four days.

The duo, who were arrested after their statements were recorded at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya yesterday, are are being investigated on grounds of using one’s office or position for gratification.

They were arrested under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009, which relates to using one’s office for gratification. If found guilty, they can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined not less than five times the gratification or RM10,000 – whichever is higher.

The MACC had started investigations in early June, which saw Siew, who was still Tourism Malaysia chairman at the time, issue a statement on June 8 saying Tourism Malaysia had given full cooperation to the anti-graft commission.

It was reported at that time that the contract involved a local company acting as a go-between for Tourism Malaysia and a China-based firm to promote Malaysia on social media platforms.

RM12 million paid out after parliament dissolved

The RM99.7 million deal involving Tourism Malaysia was signed on April 4, 2018, with Siew’s predecessor in Tourism Malaysia, Wee Choo Keong, having claimed last year that the contract was “evaluated, negotiated and sealed in one day”.

According to Wee, the two-year contract, with Ken’s company, was to promote Malaysia on the internet in China. The company was allegedly paid RM11.9 million on April 23, five days before nomination day for GE14 and 18 days after the 13th Parliament was dissolved.

Siew has been long known as a crony of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. He was appointed Tourism Malaysia chairman on September 21, 2016.

His Redberry Media Group used to publish The Malay Mail, which ceased publication as of December 1, 2018. The company also pinched almost the entire original team from The Malaysian Insider, and started the news portal Malay Mail Online, in June 2013.